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Q & A

Answers to commonly asked questions from the experts on Thumbtack.

What does an immigration attorney do?

Immigration lawyers help their clients through all phases of the immigration process. Experts on immigration law, they are legally qualified to represent U.S. citizens, permanent residents or undocumented immigrants. Immigration lawyers also provide assistance to visitors here on student, work or travel visas, and can represent clients who may have an expired visa or who have overstayed their visa.

You can hire an immigration lawyer to assist you with petitioning for renewing a permanent resident or green card, navigating the naturalization process, submitting an employee-based petition for a work visa, filing a petition for a family member, or representing you or a loved one who is facing detention or deportation, as well as replacing, extending or changing a current visa, green card or work permit. The immigration process is highly complex, with multiple hearings, paperwork and requirements. Hiring a legal expert to represent you can help you make your best effort in the process. When researching immigration lawyers, it is very important to verify their qualifications and find a reputable attorney. Read reviews and verify that the immigration lawyer is licensed by your state before paying any fees.

What is a personal injury lawyer?

A personal injury lawyer fights on your behalf if you’ve been injured physically, psychologically, economically or in reputation. This injury may be the result of neglect or malicious intent of another person, or it could be at the hands of a business, government or other entity. Personal injury lawyers specialize in tort law, which is the law of civil wrongs like car accidents, company wrongdoing, unlawful imprisonment and more.

To become qualified to be a personal injury lawyer in the United States, a person must earn a bachelor’s degree, followed by a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree from a law school. Most states then require the person to pass the bar exam to become licensed to practice law. Unlike many attorneys who require a retainer, personal injury lawyers often work on contingency fees. This means that in lieu of payment upfront, they receive an agreed-upon percentage of the settlement in case of a win.

What kind of lawyer does wills?

No one likes talking about death, but it’s better than leaving your children or siblings to sort out your estate. A clearly planned will can make the time of mourning easier for everyone. An estate attorney will develop a legal will, create trusts on your behalf, and ensure the proper execution of your estate after you pass away.  

Family attorneys and estate attorneys, also called probate and wills attorneys, can each prepare wills. The type of lawyer best suited to prepare your will depends on your situation. Most family attorneys provide services to prepare basic wills, including bequeathing property and personal items to family or naming a guardian for minor children. However, estate attorneys specialize in preparing wills in more complex situations. Consider hiring an estate attorney if you:

  • Have a large number of assets, especially those subject to estate taxes
  • Want to create a trust, such as allowing a spouse to live in your home until he or she dies and then leaving it to your children, or set up long-term care for a beneficiary
  • Have an ownership stake in a business
  • Expect someone to contest your will
  • Want to disinherit your spouse

What should you look for in a personal injury lawyer?

A personal injury lawyer will advocate for your legal rights if you’ve been hurt in an accident at work or in daily life, have suffered from medical malpractice, or are struggling to have your insurance carrier cover your needs. It may be helpful to talk with two or three lawyers before selecting one. When looking for a personal injury lawyer, research their reviews and make sure former clients have had good experiences with them. Next, make sure the personal injury lawyer has experience and proven success winning cases similar to yours. Confirm that the lawyer is licensed to provide services in your state. When you find a qualified personal injury lawyer with whom you want to work, freely discuss payment and fees before any work begins. Most lawyers offer a free consultation to learn what your case is about and explain their rates. Personal injury attorneys typically receive a percentage of your settlement (called a contingency fee), so they are paid after the trial or case is complete. Keep in mind that some attorneys have fees that you must pay even if you don’t win your trial. It’s important to understand these details before work begins so you don’t have any unhappy surprises later. Lastly, it’s wise to choose a personal injury lawyer that you have confidence in and with whom you can communicate openly and honestly.

How do you find a good immigration lawyer?

Research is key to finding a good immigration lawyer. The immigration process can be overwhelming and complex, so a trustworthy advocate is critical. When you have identified several eligible candidates, verify their immigration law license to protect yourself and your finances. Once you have a set of licensed immigration lawyers in mind, choose one based on these considerations:

  • Mutual respect: You want an immigration lawyer who treats you and your family with kindness and consideration. You’ll do the same for them.
  • Availability: Before hiring, note if they have responded promptly to your emails and calls. You don’t want to hire someone you have to chase around.
  • Proven success: Read former client reviews and research their success rate with cases similar to yours.
  • Transparent rates: Ask directly about what their rates are, how they bill, and what they estimate your legal fees will be. Ask if they will sign a fee agreement, and get receipts for all fees paid.
  • Verify who will handle your case: Sometimes junior lawyers work on firm cases. This is okay, as long as you have discussed it and are comfortable with it. When junior lawyers or paralegals are working on your case, ask if the hourly rate is lower.
  • Be wary of anyone who promises you specific results: No case is certain, and the immigration lawyer should be honest about what you can expect.

For more, check out our tips for smart hiring on Thumbtack.

How do you find a good lawyer for wills?

Estate planning is an important part of financial planning, so it’s important to find the right attorney to prepare your will. Although most family attorneys can put together a basic will, you may want one who specializes in wills and estate planning, especially if you have a lot of assets or a dependent to take care of. You may need an attorney who has expertise in planning and executing trusts and a background in taxes. Ask how the attorney charges; some charge by the hour, others have a set fee for writing wills, and some charge a percentage of the total value of the estate. Make a list of several potential wills attorneys to interview. Make sure you make a strong personal connection with your attorney — you need to be comfortable telling him or her personal, confidential information about your life, and you need to feel that the attorney is committed to solving any problems that may arise while writing your will. Also find out how long the attorney has practiced estate law and whether he or she has handled wills similar to yours.

How much should an estate plan cost?

The cost of an estate plan depends largely on the number of parts it includes and the complexity of the documents. The most basic estate plan is simply a will, but it may also include designating power of attorney or a health care proxy to another person, writing a living will, or making a HIPAA authorization. The average national cost to make an estate plan ranges from $350 to $900, but can cost much more in complicated situations. For example, an estate attorney may charge only $900 to prepare a basic will providing outright distribution — meaning that property and assets are distributed upon death. Writing a more complicated will and holding assets in trusts can cost $3,000, or more. The process of creating an estate plan generally takes two to four weeks, starting with the initial consultation with the wills attorney to identify areas of concern in order to design an estate plan that fits your goals and budget. Once an estate plan is written, the attorney meets with the clients, a notary, and two neutral witnesses to review and sign the plan and associated documents.

How much does an immigration lawyer cost?

Immigration lawyers are experts in the nuances of the highly complex United States immigration system. They help clients of all backgrounds petition for immigration status and become U.S. citizens, and can represent clients who are facing deportation or detention. Nationally, the cost people pay for immigration lawyers averages $500-$1,010. The services you need will have a huge effect on your costs. For routines cases, such as applying for a travel visa, an immigration lawyer may be able to confidently quote you a set price, while more open-ended cases may be billed at an hourly rate of $200-$500, or more, depending on the reputation and experience of the firm and lawyer. Before hiring an immigration lawyer, ask what their plan for your case is and what expected costs may be. Many immigration lawyers work from retainers, and request a set amount of money upfront from which to work. For example, a lawyer who charges $300 per hour may estimate $4,000 for a standard family-based immigration case, the common process in which a U.S. citizen petitions for permanent residency for their spouse, fiancee or family members.

How much does it cost to have a living will?

Either a family attorney or an estate, or wills, attorney can help you prepare a living will, either as part of your general estate planning or as an individual document. The cost typically ranges from $250 to $500, depending on your attorney’s fees; some charge by the hour, while others have a flat rate for writing a living will. Some states require living wills to be notarized, which adds an average of $5 to $15. In a living will — also called an advanced healthcare directive — you specify whether you want to be kept on life support if you become terminally ill or lapse into a persistent vegetative state. You can also answer other important questions in a living will like your preferences for tube feeding, artificial hydration and pain medication in situations when you cannot communicate your wishes on your own.

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