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Frequently Asked Legal Questions

Answered by Maryland Law Firm Stark and Keenan

At Stark and Keenan, P.A., we understand that our clients often have many questions about their cases. For your convenience, we have compiled a list of answers to commonly asked questions during initial consultations.

What exactly is commercial real estate?

Broadly defined, the term “commercial real estate” refers to any dealing with real property in a business context. It may involve leasing office space, owning an apartment complex, or selling real property along with and as part of the sale of a business. It may be industrial or agricultural property. It can even involve residential properties such as apartment complexes or rental houses that are held for business or income-producing purposes. It may even involve working with the government. Unless the property is a residence where the homeowner is living, you are probably dealing with commercial real estate.

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Are there really that many differences between a commercial real estate deal and buying a house?

While many of the concepts are the same, there can be huge differences between commercial and residential real estate transactions. Commercial real estate transactions can be far more diverse and wide-ranging than selling homes. Any real estate deal has its share of risks, and problems can arise that you could not possibly foresee. In general, however, the risk and potential liability exposure that you face on a commercial real estate deal can be much greater than when you buy a house. Look at it from this perspective: by and large, we all have a pretty good idea of what goes on in a typical family home, but can you say the same thing about a piece of business property? Depending on the nature of the business, commercial property may have all kinds of liens and title problems. There may be greater concerns about hazardous materials or zoning issues. And there will always be questions about the suitability of the property’s location for your business needs.

Furthermore, in many instances, you are not afforded the same consumer protections on a commercial real estate deal that may be available when you purchase a residence. In some states, for example, residential home buyers are given greater protections against abusive lending practices than are business owners. There are also disclosures mandated in residential real estate matters that may not be required in a commercial transaction.

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What is liability?

Liability is the term used to establish who was at fault for an injury or accident. If a person is found liable for causing the plaintiff’s injuries, he or she is generally responsible for providing compensation that covers the plaintiff’s economic and non-economic losses.

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What does negligence mean?

Negligence occurs when an individual departs from the behavior expected of a reasonably prudent person in the same or similar circumstance.  Negligence is often used as grounds for filing a personal injury lawsuit. The plaintiff — the person filing the suit — must prove that the defendant’s negligence caused the harm the plaintiff suffered.

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How much is my case worth?

Many factors determine how much compensation you may receive — including the severity of your injuries, your medical history and the amount of insurance coverage that the responsible person or company has. An attorney can assess the potential value of your claim.

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What factors determine the amount of money I can recover?

Every personal injury case addresses three core issues:

  • Liability — establishing who was at fault for causing an injury
  • Damages — the amount of money that will fairly and adequately compensate a plaintiff for injuries
  • Source of collection — insurance or other assets from which damages can be recovered

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Do I need a will?

A will protects your property and can be especially helpful if you want to distribute your property to people other than your relatives. Without a will, state law dictates the distribution of your property. The default plan under the law normally distributes property to relatives.

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Is it necessary for a lawyer to draft my will?

While it may seem straightforward for you to draft your will yourself, personally-drafted wills tend to be incomplete and are, therefore, often invalid under state law. An attorney familiar with your specific state laws can draft a will that is valid under those laws.

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What happens if someone dies without a will?

State law uses a default will for anyone who dies without a will. Typically, the spouse and children of the person who died take the property. If there is no spouse and no children, the decedent’s parents — followed by siblings, grandparents and children of the grandparents — take the property. If no close relative can be found, the property eventually becomes the property of the state. Note, though, that as part of the probate process, the decedent’s creditors lay claim to the property after certain allowances for spouse and children.

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What are the duties and obligations of an executor or personal representative?

The executor or personal representative follows state law to wrap up the decedent’s affairs, including the following:

  • Giving the proper notices to proper parties
  • Collecting the decedent’s property
  • Receiving claims against the estate
  • Paying valid claims and disputing others
  • Distributing estate property according to the will or state law

It may also be necessary to sell estate property to cover debts or allow for proper distribution.

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What is probate?

Probate is the legal process of administering an estate after someone dies. In this way, your property passes directly to your beneficiaries. Probate includes the following:

  • Proving in court that a deceased person’s will is valid
  • Identifying and taking inventory of the deceased person’s property
  • Appraising the property
  • Paying debts and taxes
  • Distributing property as directed by a will
  • Transferring title and ownership of assets to the proper beneficiaries

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Experienced attorneys. Aggressive representation. Proven results.

From our offices in Bel Air and Havre de Grace, Stark and Keenan, P.A. represents individuals, businesses, corporations and municipalities throughout the greater Baltimore Metropolitan Area, including Towson, Aberdeen, Edgewood and Riverside. Call a Harford County lawyer today at or contact the firm online to schedule an initial consultation.

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If you want to request a change of zoning on your property, NOW IS THE TIME TO ACT!

Pursuant to Harford County Council Bill No. 24-007, Harford County will initiate a 12-month county-wide Comprehensive Rezoning Process Process. The Department of Planning and Zoning will accept application requests for individual rezoning changes for a two-month period beginning on June 3, 2024.

If you are interested in filing a request for a zoning change, please contact us immediately. 
In Memoriam
The Passing of Founding Member, Charles (Charlie) B. Keenan, Jr.
Charlie Keenan Jr.
It is with great sadness that Stark and Keenan PA mourns the loss of Charles (Charlie) B. Keenan, Jr. who passed away on July 1, 2023. Charlie was a founding member of Stark and Keenan PA in 1987 and has been a prominent member of the Maryland bar for over 50 years. His contributions to this firm and the Harford County legal community will be greatly missed.
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