Finance lawyers specialize in unique areas of the law, rarely crossing borders because of the complexities in their respective fields. Understanding the issues you face and the questions you have can help you narrow down the area of finance law you need help in, including bankruptcy law, taxation law, estate planning, and divorce.
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UPDATED: Aug 9, 2021
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- Financial law includes banking regulation, securities, taxation, and countless other related areas
- Financial law touches many other areas of legal practice, including divorce and estate planning
- One more
Finance law is a broad category of the law overlapping other complex legal niches, including antitrust, bankruptcy, and securities law. Most lawyers in this field specialize in a certain area of financial law. Because Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regulations are so complex, many financial lawyers choose to focus on just one.
Financial law examples include cases such as divorce, estate planning, and tax law. It may also include topics like insurance, investments, commercial banking practices, and retirement. If you are facing legal issues in any of these areas, a financial attorney could prove invaluable.
Whether you’re investing in the stock market or buying a home, these decisions can be helped by a financial lawyer who can serve to protect your rights. Enter your ZIP code above to find financial law firms in your area.
What is banking and finance law?
Finance laws come in many shapes and sizes. Some laws are federal and apply to every institution in the country. Other laws are local, going above and beyond the federal requirements. When seeking an attorney with a financial law degree, you may want to choose a local law firm if your matter involves any local finance laws.
Finance laws can relate to any statute, policy, or regulation from any level of government. Here are the most common banking and finance law areas:
Antitrust laws aim to protect business interests by keeping the market competitive. These laws often prevent one company from buying a large stake in a competitor to shut them down.
Banking law is in effect to prevent fraud and ensure fair lending practices. Loan and mortgages may be rejected for discriminatory reasons. A financial lawyer can help you determine if your loan rejection was illegal and take appropriate action.
In complex and contested divorces, a finance lawyer can help ensure the accuracy of financial disclosures. Intentionally or even mistakenly inaccurate financial disclosures could lead to unfair distribution of assets in a divorce. A finance lawyer can protect your rights by auditing the disclosure of your spouse, making sure they have disclosed everything required by the divorce laws in your state.
Personal bankruptcies are complex legal matters. Deciding to file requires intense focus and information. A financial attorney will be able to explain your rights and help you decide whether bankruptcy is the right move for you to make. If so, they can help you protect eligible assets and ensure a smooth transition through the bankruptcy process.
Securities law deals with the purchase and sale of stocks and bonds, along with other security interests. Many federal laws apply to these transactions and even innocent mistakes can quickly lead to serious legal trouble. You will need an experienced financial lawyer to guide you through any legal hurdles you face.
The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) governs debt collection practices. Even if you owe a debt, there are laws that a debt collector must follow. Unfortunately, they too often attempt to collect a debt going outside the law. Hiring a financial lawyer will protect you from illegal practices and give you the tools you need to hold your debt collector accountable.
Insurance companies often try to make more money by denying claims to their clients. They are frequently successful because people just assume the insurance company wouldn’t lie to them.
In reality, many insurance companies have the practice of outright denial of every claim that comes in. Only when someone appeals do they give a claim a fair look. Your finance lawyer can review your denial reason and create a strong case on appeal.
People entering retirement often use annuities. They can provide steady but small growth potential, leaving retirees with decent supplemental retirement income. But an annuity is also a complex contract purchased from an insurance company. Getting financial advice from an attorney before you sign on the dotted line can protect your retirement.
Maybe the IRS is auditing you. Maybe your state says you haven’t paid taxes in years. One thing is for sure about tax agencies — they don’t stop until they get their money. If you are being wrongly accused or even if you owe the debt, you may be able to get a better deal with a financial lawyer guiding you through the complicated process.
Estate planning is the process of planning for your death. It commonly includes a will and sometimes a trust. A financial attorney can guide you through the estate planning process, ensuring that your assets are protected both for the remainder of your lifetime and for your beneficiaries.
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When should I hire a financial lawyer?
Let’s dive deeper into some of the most common reasons why people hire a financial lawyer.
Foreclosure happens when a person cannot pay their mortgage. The bank may come in and reclaim the property, kicking the occupants out.
When you take out a mortgage with a bank, they technically own the property until you pay it all off, at which point they then sign the property deed over to you. Until then, you’re paying the bank an agreed-upon monthly payment to repay the loan. If you cannot make or stop making those monthly payments, the contract you signed may give the bank the right to foreclose on the property.
What many homeowners don’t realize is that they have rights. When a bank initiates a foreclosure process, you have a right to redemption and reclaim your property. This comes in two forms:
- Equitable Right of Redemption, which gives you the chance to pay off the remaining balance on your mortgage, and;
- Statutory Right of Redemption, which gives you the chance to reclaim the property at any time, even after it is sold at the foreclosure sale.
You’re not expected to know exactly how the process works or the nuances involved in foreclosure proceedings. A finance lawyer will, and they may be able to help resolve your financial situation.
Filing for Bankruptcy
Those filing for bankruptcy have three common options:
- Chapter 7
- Chapter 13
- Chapter 11
Chapter 11 bankruptcy only applies to business owners and requires them to propose a reorganization plan to keep their business afloat and pay off debts. Chapter 7 and Chapter 13 bankruptcies are more common and we discuss these types of bankruptcies in more detail below:
Chapter 7 Bankruptcy
Chapter 7 is the most common of all bankruptcy filings. It’s generally used by people who do not have a large income and have high amounts of unsecured debt, like credit cards and medical bills. Chapter 7 can provide a clean slate.
Chapter 7 eliminates all debt for people who successfully traverse the bankruptcy process. Be aware that you will need to give up and sell your possessions to pay back your debts. Even if your debtors are unable to collect the full amount they are owed, they may get a fraction of the debt through the sale of your possessions.
Your bankruptcy lawyer may be able to help you retain necessary assets like a car or home and possibly family heirloom items.
Chapter 13 Bankruptcy
Chapter 13 bankruptcy reorganizes debt. Unlike Chapter 7, which eliminates all debt, Chapter 13 keeps the debt in place while you make payments to eventually eliminate the debt. Chapter 13 is generally better for people who have higher incomes and can afford to make higher monthly payments to keep their assets.
It’s important to note that not all debt can be reorganized under Chapter 13. For example, student loans and child support debt will not receive bankruptcy protection.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Filing for Bankruptcy
Declaring bankruptcy can be a way for you to start fresh, but it is a scary and overwhelming process. Hire a bankruptcy lawyer to guide you through this process and help you understand the benefits.
When you file for bankruptcy protection, the moment you file triggers an automatic stay. That means creditors have to stop calling you, any lawsuits they’ve filed have to be paused, as well as stopping any evictions, foreclosures, wage garnishments, and utility shutoffs. Essentially, it gives you a moment to breathe.
If you are able to get approved for bankruptcy and successfully complete the requirements, you may see an increase in your credit score. While a bankruptcy will stay on your credit for a few years, people who have filed bankruptcy can still have a decent credit score, allowing them to make large purchases.
Bankruptcy can also give you great relief. While you may have made financial mistakes or suffered an accident that resulted in astronomical medical bills you couldn’t afford, coming out the other side of bankruptcy can be a fresh start for you.
While bankruptcy is right for some people, it’s not right for everyone. If you cannot complete the bankruptcy requirements, you may need to sell some of your belongings. The court might even seize some. This could include family heirlooms and other deeply personal items.
Your bankruptcy filing will be noted on your credit report for up to a decade. While people can still make purchases, you may find it challenging to get approved for extremely large purchases, like a home, without a substantial down payment.
If you work in a financial position, as a bookkeeper or accountant, a bankruptcy may show up on a background check for a new job. Employers may be able to deny you the job based on the bankruptcy filing.
Bankruptcy is a deeply personal choice. But with the right legal guidance, you can make the best decision for you, knowing all the advantages and disadvantages that come along with it.
Facing an Income Tax Audit
If the IRS or a state tax agency doesn’t think you’ve paid what you owe in income taxes, they will come knocking on your door. They will send you a notice in the mail and, once you’ve received the notice, you’re already behind. Getting a tax lawyer on your side as quickly as possible can make the difference in what comes next.
What happens during an IRS income tax audit? First, you will meet with an auditor, although this can sometimes be completed by mail or over the phone. The IRS auditor is coming to the table under the assumption that you have not paid every dollar you owe in taxes. You might think they need to prove this. Unfortunately, the burden of proof is on you to show that you have paid all the taxes you owe.
Have you kept donations receipts for years? What about expense reimbursements from work? No? Then you’re going to need the help of an experienced tax audit attorney.
If you cannot show the auditor that you have paid every penny in taxes, you may have to pay all the taxes they say you owe, including any fines and interest on the late tax payments. Getting the help of a trusted tax lawyer who knows the audit process can give you a leg up on the IRS.
How do I find a financial lawyer?
Finding the right finance lawyer for your legal needs depends on exactly what those needs are. While it may seem overwhelming at first, you are in the right place. Follow the steps below and use our free legal tools to connect with affordable law firms in your neighborhood.
1. Determine Your Legal Issues
The first step is to understand your legal issues, and this might be the hardest part. Many finance issues are extremely complex legal matters. Because of this, many finance lawyers specialize in very specific areas of finance law.
For example, if you’re being sued by the IRS for back taxes, you need a lawyer who specializes in IRS tax law, offers in compromise, and negotiating with that massive government agency. Alternatively, if you are considering filing bankruptcy, then you won’t be able to see the same lawyer. You need to find a bankruptcy lawyer who can help you file for the appropriate bankruptcy protection.
Giving a lawyer specific facts about your financial legal issues will help them determine whether they can help you with your legal problem. On the upside, good lawyers know good lawyers. So if you discuss a legal matter with a lawyer who practices in a completely different area of finance law, ask them for a recommendation.
2. Speak with Finance Lawyers
Once you have determined the area of finance law that your matter falls under, now it’s time to research. If you speak with a lawyer, as mentioned above, who doesn’t practice in the specific financial area you require, ask them for a referral. Sometimes, these are the best recommendations.
No matter what financial legal issue you face, however, there are common questions you can ask to get insight into the lawyer’s history and ability to help solve your issues. Asking some variation of these questions can help you determine whether this lawyer is right for you:
- What area of finance law do you specialize in?
- How many years of experience do you have doing just this area of law?
- Have you taken any cases to trial?
- Do you have time to take my case?
- Can I speak with any past clients?
Finally, make sure you feel comfortable with the lawyer. You may be going through a very personal and emotional experience. This lawyer will be diving deep into your finances, and they’re going to get to know you very well, very quickly. You need to feel comfortable with your lawyer, not only so you can speak freely with them but so that you have confidence that they have your best interests at heart and can help you successfully resolve your legal financial matter.
Finance matters are not legal issues to mess around with. You could be facing serious fines and penalties if you ignore them. You have legal options, no matter what you’re facing. To help you protect your rights, hire an experienced financial lawyer who knows how to handle your case. Enter your ZIP code below to contact local financial attorneys near you for free.