At one time in the lives of most people, they buy a home. If they borrow the money to do so, they go through a “loan closing.” In Mississippi that is frequently, but not always, handled by an attorney from start to finish. That means the attorney has searched the county and possibly city land records to verify that the title to the property is free of defects. The buyer and the lender loaning the purchase money for the property need to know that the buyer will actually own the property (the seller actually owns it) and that there are no liens of any type. Liens that are routinely found which affect property are deeds of trusts (like a mortgage), judgments, federal tax liens and construction liens. There are others. Even if there is no lender involved, you definitely want to verify you are getting what you are paying for. You need an attorney’s certificate that he or she has searched the records and that there are no title problems.
A popular misconception is that the attorney’s title search will reveal all problems, if any, with the property being purchased. That is not true; you may want a surveyor to verify the property lines and you must realize that the attorney will not physically go to the property to verify that someone else is not occupying it.
Other documents associated with loan closings or other transfers of property are deeds, promissory notes, and deeds of trust. A deed is the document signed by the seller conveying title to the buyer. A promissory note is the document the buyer signs for the bank (or maybe the seller if they are doing the financing) promising to pay the purchase price. The deed of trust is a pledge to the lender that you will repay the loan (the amount in the note) and, if you do not, it gives them the right to sell the property to recover the money they loaned.
Numerous documents will be signed at a traditional loan closing but most of those are prepared by your lender or the lender’s attorney. Most are required by federal law.
What are the fees for talking with your staff or your attorneys? There is never any fee for your initial conversation or meeting with our paralegals. They will take your general information about your matter and you. Then, they will be able to tell you about fees that might apply. If it is an unusual matter, you will meet with an attorney free of charge for the first fifteen minutes to find out what can be done and what the fees might be. There is never an hourly charge for any time spent with attorneys or staff for automobile accidents resulting in bodily injury, medical or other professional malpractice, workers compensation cases, and most other cases involving recovery of property or breach of a contract. Those matters are almost always handled on a contingency fee basis. Regardless, you will be told in advance if any fee is to be charged and how it will be determined. Other matters, generally involve a fee based on the time spent in giving you advice or providing services. Once again, you will be told about that in advance, before any fees are incurred.
What is a contingency fee? When you are hurt on the job or suffer a personal injury (automobile accident, medical malpractice, etc.,) upon employment, this firm will represent you in those matters for a percentage of the recovery. That means if you recover nothing, the attorney receives no fee. The percentage will usually depend on the type of case and the chances of recovery (risk of loss) in the particular case.
What do I need for my first meeting with an attorney? That will depend on the type of legal matter. The paralegal you speak with initially when making an appointment can probably answer that question once he or she knows about the basics of the matter. Generally, if the legal matter involves documents, such as contracts, letters, summons to court, leases, insurance policies, you need all of those documents for the attorney’s review.
What contracts should I have reviewed by an attorney before I sign? More than you realize. There are some contracts you probably do not need advice about. Contracts for small amounts of money, and “adhesion contracts” fall into that category. Adhesion contracts are the type you generally run across when buying an airplane ticket, buying a car or leasing a copier from Xerox. Even if you do not like the terms of the agreement, the other party is not going to change anything to suit you. It’s a take it or leave it transaction. However, a surprising number of people will sign form and other contracts that are negotiable, and which involve tens of thousands of dollars, without having an attorney review it. One that comes to mind is the realtor’s agreement for the purchase or sale of a home. Another is a home or apartment lease which obligates you to rent for many months or a few years. If you are committing several thousand dollars in a written agreement, somebody prepared that agreement to protect one of the parties. Usually that protected party is not you.