Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Take a Break!

It's the end of the year! Give your mind and body a rest and enjoy special time with friends and family.   Happy New Year from the Kalish Law Office!  

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(In this picture: Attorney Bob Kalish, (former assistant) Tara, Kenza, Forrest, Val, and Attorney Sio Pitre)

 

 

 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Social Security Survivors Benefits, Dependents Benefits and SSI

Social Security Dependents Benefits are benefits that are available to the family of a disabled or retired worker.  These benefits are paid directly to the family member.

 

The worker has to be claiming his/her own benefits at the time.

 

Dependents benefits can be paid to:

 

  1. The worker’s spouse, if s/he is age 62 or older
  2. The worker’s spouse, at any age, if s/he is caring for the worker’s child who is under 16 or disabled and entitled to social security benefits from the worker’s record
  3. Unmarried children of the worker, if they are under 18
  4. Unmarried children of the worker who are between 18 and 19 years old but in elementary or secondary school as full-time students
  5. Unmarried children of the worker who are 18 and older and severely disabled, as long as the disability started before age 22
  6. An ex-spouse of the worker, as long as the spouse was married to the worker for more than 10 years, the couple was divorced for at least 2 years, the ex-spouse is at least 62 years old, is unmarried, and does not qualify for an equal or higher benefit based upon his/her own work or someone else’s work.

 

Social Security Survivor’s Benefits are benefits that are available to a worker’s family, after the worker dies.  The worker will have had to earn enough work credits or time working for the family to be eligible to receive these benefits. 


Survivor’s benefits can be paid to the widow(er), children, dependent parents, or ex-spouse of the deceased worker, if certain criteria are met.  If you think that you or a family member may be entitled to survivor’s benefits, you should analyze your situation carefully. Here are the criteria for eligibility; http://ssa.gov/pubs/10084.html

 

SSI is supplemental security income and is available to certain people who have low income, few resources and are 65 or older; blind; or disabled. Some children with disabilities may be entitled to monthly SSI. Here is a link to a pamphlet regarding SSI for disabled children. http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10026.html

 

Many people are not aware of the benefits that may be available to them under the Social Security law.   The website http://www.ssa.gov   has a variety of information, tools, calculators and forms to help you understand how social security benefits work, calculate your benefits, and apply for them.

 

Kalish Law Office “Passionate, Professional and Personal. We Make the Difference.” Since 1984  www.kalishlawtexas.com

Monday, November 14, 2011

Take It Easy

Economic worries tend to make people angry, bitter and distracted.  In tough times, people are more likely to complain, blame, and be generally unappreciative of others. This is evident when driving down the road, standing in line at the store, and observing the tense, unhappy looks on the faces of people.  

 

There is no question that times are tough.  Feeling it, believing it and saying it doesn't make you a cynic, it makes you realistic. This year in Texas, at the same time the economy was taking a toll on us, we were hit hard by drought and extremely hot weather.   


When times are tough, it is more important than ever to show a little compassion to others.   We are all facing our own problems and worries. A “thank you” and a spirit of cooperation instead of a demanding attitude will go a long way towards helping us all get through a difficult time. Especially now. 

 

Very often the stress we feel and show to others is caused by excessive, constant worry. In tough times like these, our minds are going constantly with “to do” lists, worries and plans. It is hard to slow down our thought processes but lower blood pressure and a happier frame of mind are the rewards for taking a little extra time.  

  

 

The Eagles said it best when they sang, “Take it Easy.... Don’t let the sound of your own wheels make you crazy.”   The song is classic (old!), and the advice is still good.

 

  

www.kalishlawtexas.com  
"Passionate, Professional and Personal. We Make the Difference."  Since 1984

 

 

 

 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Important Information About Health Insurance and Your Adopted Child

When you are adopting a child, it is important to enroll your child in your health care plan within 30 days of his/her adoption OR placement for adoption.


This is important for two reasons: 1) if you do so, this will allow coverage for your child under your group health care coverage to be effective immediately as of your child’s adoption or placement date; and 2) this will prevent a “lapse” in insurance that could subject your child to a preexisting condition exclusion for any health issues s/he may have.  (Note: In the event that your child has a “lapse” of more than 63 days (a period in which s/he has no insurance coverage, including Medicaid coverage), an insurance company may exclude treatment/coverage for any preexisting conditions for up to 12 months.)

In the excitement and flurry of adoption, this is an issue that may get lost in the shuffle. Don’t let that happen! 

As soon as you know that you will be adopting, you should contact your employer’s HR department or plan administrator to review the requirements for enrollment. 

Please note:  Even if your company only has open enrollment at specific times in the year, you will be entitled to a “special enrollment” based upon the adoption.

Be sure to speak with your adoption attorney as soon as possible about the documentation you will need in order to enroll your child.   You may need documentation from the law firm, district clerk, adoption agency, or court in order to present to your insurance company or employer.  This is not always immediately available, so be sure to give your adoption attorney a “heads up” so that she can prepare it for you.

 

More detailed information about preexisting conditions, special enrollment, and other provisions of HIPPA (The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996) can be found on the U.S. Department of Labor website

Kalish Law Office has been serving families and businesses since 1984.  Our main website can be found at www.kalishlawtexas.com  

Monday, October 10, 2011

International Adoption: Proving U.S. Citizenship for Adoptees

When a U.S. citizen couple (or single parent) adopts a child through international adoption procedure it is important to be certain that all steps have been followed so that the child is a U.S. citizen and can prove it, beyond any doubt.   Adoptive parents should not consider the process completed until this happens.

Although the procedures have become more standardized over the years, there are still a variety of laws, rules, treaties, forms, and procedures that come into play.

Due to changes that have occurred in adoption laws over the years, there is not one set “formula” that has been applied to all situations. Whether citizenship is automatic or not, whether there must be a re-adoption in the U.S., and which procedures should be followed depends on the situation.

This month’s Adoption Advocate published by the National Council for Adoption is an article titled: Protecting the Rights of Intercountry Adoptees: Steps to Ensure the Right of Citizenship for Every Adopted Individual.  The author of this article is Jean Nelson Erichsen, an experienced adoption advocate and former director of Los Niños International Adoption Center. I was fortunate to be asked to consult with her in the writing of this article.

Ms. Erichsen’s article contains some shocking statistics and troubling case histories of individuals who were adopted by U.S. citizen parents but, for various reasons, have not received U.S. citizenship. Some are entitled to citizenship but lack the documentary evidence to prove it.

In some cases internationally adopted individuals may be able to remedy that situation with the help of an agency, attorney or adoption advocate.  However, some of these unfortunate people have “fallen through the cracks” and are the victims of a gap in our laws. 

Although immigration reform is a “hot topic” politically, it is hard for me to imagine that even the staunchest supporters of strict immigration policy would deny these adoptees the right to U.S. citizenship. The immigration laws that were drafted with an exclusionary purpose were clearly not intended for this situation.    

 If you are an international adoptee who is unsure of your immigration status I encourage you to investigate the facts.  Talk to your parents, an adoption advocate, an immigration/adoption attorney, or the agency which is responsible for your adoption.   You may be one of the fortunate ones who are able to remedy your situation fairly easily.  

If you fall into one of the categories that does not currently have a legal remedy, you can help by advocating for change.

To advocate for change, contact your U.S. legislators, and advocate groups such as National Council for Adoption (NCFA). 

See also the Adoptee Citizenship Factsheet published by the NCFA, October, 2011.

 

- Laura Kalish

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Adult Adoption or Simple Name Change?

An adult person who wishes to be adopted may do so, and an adult adoption is generally simpler and quicker than the adoption of a minor child. This is because an adult can consent to his/her own adoption, and does not have to get the biological parent’s permission.  

 

An adult adoption may include a name change for the adoptee, but it doesn’t have to.

 

The final and legal effect of an adult adoption is to sever the legal parental ties to the previous, still living,  biological parent(s), and create new ties with the adoptive parent(s). Therefore, the adoptee must realize that s/he will no longer be the legal child of the former parent whose parental ties have been severed. (this can come into play if the former biological parent becomes ill or dies after the adoption. The adoptee will no longer have rights as “family” as to that former parent and may not be able to get in to the hospital, have a voice in decisions, or inherit).

 

The adult who is seeking adoption could also ask for a court-ordered name change, and change his last name to that of the family that he feels close to.   The name change will give him the same last name as the family, but will not sever the prior relationship with his biological parents, nor will it create the parent-child relationship with the “new” family.

 

Both adult adoption and adult name change are relatively uncomplicated procedures legally (unless the person seeking the name change has a criminal history or it appears that s/he is trying to run from obligations or defraud creditors by the name change).

 

If the purpose of the legal action is to make the potential adoptee a full-fledged legal member of the family, with all the rights that family members have towards each other, including inheritance, then an adult adoption is the way to go. 

If, on the other hand, the “adoptee” does not want to sever the legal ties with his/her biological family, but wants to bear the last name of his/her “other family”, a name change may be just the right remedy.

 

Kalish Law Office has been providing legal services to businesses and families for over 27 years. “Passionate, Professional and Personal. We Make the Difference.” Since 1984   Tenemos una abogada que habla español

www.kalishlawtexas.com

 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

News on Intercountry Adoption from the U.S. State Department

The U.S. State Department website about intercountry adoption is an excellent resource.  This site has information about the process, about the Hague Convention, and individual countries, along with the latest news, alerts and notices.

http://adoption.state.gov

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Practical Advice for Dealing With Senior Adults

My last blog post dealt with caring for and helping senior adults, and mentioned some of the challenges that you are likely to encounter.   Now I want to share my review of a book that I discovered.  

How to Say it to Seniors; Closing the Communication Gap with Our Elders” by David Solie (Prentice Hall Press © 2004) is an excellent guide to communicating with senior adults.    I highly recommend this book for anyone who is dealing with senior adults in a family or a business relationship.

 

Mr. Solie is a speaker and educator. He has a background in finance, and worked for several years with companies that primarily dealt with senior adults. 

 

The book presents a fresh and honest perspective on the communication gap between seniors and middle-aged adults. 

We all go through developmental growth / personality development at different periods of our life, he writes.  What is seen too often as a “decline” in older adults can be seen as a normal developmental process. The older person is simply learning to deal with the changes in life, losses, and independence that aging brings.  


Solie states that “the secret mission” of older adults is to 1) maintain control and 2) leave a legacy.  He suggests ways to allow the person to keep control and dignity while dealing with the changes that the person is going through.  He explains why “trying to help” and explaining things logically (or, what is logical to the younger adult) meets with such strong and sometimes baffling resistance, why an older person’s focused occupation with a certain topic makes sense to them but seems obsessive to a younger person and how to deal with “NO!” 

 

It is written in a manner that is respectful to all concerned.  The concerns and frustrations of all sides are examined thoughtfully.   Various practical ways to approach common problems are suggested.  Although concerns over the elder’s safety and health are treated as serious, younger adults are also advised that sometimes they just have to “let go” and allow the elder person to choose their path.  The most progress is made when the elder person is allowed to maintain as much control and choice as possible.

 

Of course there are situations that have progressed to the point where physical, emotional or mental issues have rendered the person a danger to themselves or others and someone must step in immediately and take control.  But even those extreme situations can be helped by a willingness to see things from a slightly different viewpoint.


I highly recommend this book to anyone who is dealing with older adults. It is pleasant reading, refreshingly honest, and without psychological, medical or legal mumbo-jumbo.  Just good, solid advice.

 

Kalish Law Office, The Woodlands, Texas.   www.kalishlawtexas.com Wills, Probate and Elder Law. “Passionate, Professional and Personal. We Make the Difference.” Since 1984

Monday, August 1, 2011

What Would Happen to Your Pet if You Died Unexpectedly?

Pets are part of the family, often have jobs to do in our homes, and provide us with love and companionship. Yet, many people do not make plans for what would happen to beloved pets after the owner’s death.

 

Providing for pets is different than providing for minor children. 

 

Pets may be provided for informally (by agreement between parties), or formally (by naming the pet in a will or trust).   [A “trust” is a situation in which the money or property of one party is held by another party (“trustee”) for the benefit of the third party. (“beneficiary”, and in this case, the pet)].  Trusts that are used for the benefit of minor children are not necessarily valid or appropriate to use for animals.

 

Pets can’t inherit money or property directly, so if you have a pet you want to provide for you have three basic options:

 

1.                          Find a friend or family member who will take your pet if the pet outlives you.  Everyone who has a pet should, at a minimum, at least make sure that someone will step up and take the pet and give it a good home.

2.                          You can name that person as a beneficiary in your will, with the pet as a gift to this person. (You should also name one or two “alternates” just in case the first person can’t or won’t take the pet later on); there may be a gift of money given to that person along with the pet, but not always.

3.                          Or you may choose to use a trust for more control over how the pet is cared for after your death.  There are many options on how to draft the trust, and how it will be administered.

 

Any trust for animal care must be carefully worded to avoid conflict with Texas law, and to minimize the likelihood that beneficiaries (or potential beneficiaries) might

 contest it.   People who have little or nothing to lose by contesting the will or trust may do so out of hurt feelings combined with a sense of entitlement or for spite. 

 

One easy thing that can be done to protect your pet that will cost you nothing -carrying a card in your wallet that tells about your pet.  This may save your pet’s life if you are injured or killed.

 

Providing for pets is part of the total picture of estate planning. Just as you provide for the humans in your family, the disposition of your property, and the ongoing operation of your business, you can discover the various options available for caring for your loyal pets.   An estate planning attorney can help you understand your options.

 

Kalish Law Office: wills, trusts, probate and estate planning attorneys in The Woodlands, Texas  www.kalishlawtexas.com

 

 

           

 

Friday, July 29, 2011

"Motion to Enforce" a Texas Court Order About Property

A final divorce decree will have provisions in the court order which relate to division of property and debts. 

When one of the parties does not follow through in obeying the court order, the other “innocent” party may choose to file a motion with the court. This is called a “Motion for Enforcement” and is a request for the court to hear the case and enter new orders to enforce those particular provisions that are in issue.

 

An ex-spouse may neglect to pay a debt as ordered, may choose not to vacate, sell or maintain property as s/he was ordered to do, refuse to cooperate in property transfer or help him/herself to more than his/her share of a joint asset.   These are all situations in which a Motion to Enforce may be filed by the ex-spouse.  

What are your options if your ex spouse hasn’t followed through?  You can attempt to discuss it directly (not recommended if your relationship is volitile) .  If further action is necessary, you may decide to take a copy of the final divorce decree and any evidence with you to a family law attorney’s office for a consultation.  That attorney will help you assess your case, and possibly offer alternatives that are less expensive for you than filing an immediate suit, such as writing a certified letter from the law firm or attending mediation.   If you decide that you would like to file a suit, the attorney will explain the potential cost and time investment that your case will require.

 

If you are served with a lawsuit regarding enforcement, you will have a certain number of days in which you must respond by filing your answer. If you do not do so, a judgment will most likely be taken against you.   Even if you cannot pay the judgment now, it can follow you for several years, and collection efforts may be initiated against you.  See an attorney right away, before that happens.

 

If you see “trouble ahead”, you can also try to minimize problems by dealing with the situation now.  For instance, if you know that you have been unable to follow court orders because you have become ill, or lost your job.

 

Kalish Law Office has been serving family law clients since 1984.  www.kalishlawtexas.com  The Woodlands, Texas

Saturday, July 23, 2011

When Your ex Files a Contempt Suit Against You

Last time, we discussed child support/visitation contempt and enforcement suits from the point-of-view of the filing party. This time we will present the other perspective.

 

If you are served with this type of suit, first of all, remain calm.  DO NOT call, email or write your ex in anger. This can come back to haunt you later on.

 

Secondly, read the suit and the allegations very carefully. Do they have ANY merit at all?  Go through each allegation one at a time, carefully. Make a separate list with your response to each allegation.  

 

If you have evidence that the allegations are untrue, get your proof together. Proof of child support that you have paid would include a print-out from the Texas Attorney General Child Support Division and cancelled checks.  .  Depending on the allegations, you may also need to gather proof of payment of medical bills or insurance premiums, copies of insurance policies, proof of delivery of certified mail or email delivery confirmation.

 

For disputes involving visitation, calendars, diaries, dated photos and other evidence may be helpful.

 

Although it is difficult to keep emotions out of the situation, don’t let your emotions make the situation worse.  You do not want to engage in a bitter fight, which can be expensive, upsetting (especially to the children) and bring up a lot of old emotional baggage. 

 

Be sure to respond properly and on time by filing a proper answer.  DO NOT IGNORE the suit. If you do, a judgment can be taken against you.      

Read all the papers that are included.  The citation will tell you when your response is due and there may be additional papers which give you information about the scheduling of the case or state a requirement for mediation.

 

A child support attorney can assist you with understanding the law relating to enforcement and contempt actions, can defend you in the suit and help you understand your legal rights.

 

Kalish Law Office www.kalishlawtexas.com

Friday, July 15, 2011

Finding Your Ex in Contempt of a Court Order Involving Children

What is contempt?

Contempt is an action that can be used by the court to enforce an order, or to punish disobedience.   Contempt can be used by the court “on its own” (Judge says, “I am going to find you in contempt for your misbehavior in this courtroom”) or can be requested by a party who files a motion with the court (a parent files a suit against the other parent for non-payment of child support and repeated visitation violations).

 

I could write for several pages about contempt in general. For this blog post, let’s narrow it down to situations in which contempt is filed by one parent against another.

 

If are a party to a court order that is being violated (but not by you!), you may have already wondered about how this works.

 

Family law contempt cases relating to children typically involve one of the following:  

1)      A party has not paid child support or medical support as it was ordered in the decree

2)      A party is not following the visitation schedule as it was ordered in the decree, especially if access to the children is being withheld.

3)      A party is not following restrictions placed upon him/her by court order that involve health or safety of the children (drinking before or during visitation times).

 

 

If you want to succeed on a motion for contempt, there are a few things you are going to need:

 

1)      Actual instances of contempt- Filing a motion for contempt with nothing but anger or desire for vengeance to back it up is not going to work for you. You will spend time and money; negatively affect your children, waste court time and anger the judge. 

2)      Very good records- In a contempt action, you need to have copies of documents that are relevant and support your case, and an accurate list of when contempt occurred.   Examples of documents: A certified copy of the final court order that s/he has violated (see our recent blog about how and why to get one of these- June 21, 2011);   emails or letters showing your ex’s disregard of the court order, photos, certified mail receipts showing his/her receipt of medical bills that went unpaid, your diary or logs of the months child support was unpaid, a copy of child support payments from the Child Support Division.

3)      A healthy attitude- An attitude of hatred or uncontrollable anger that drives the case and comes across to a judge will not help you.   An attitude of doing what’s best for your child, keeping your child safe, getting money to help support your child-  this will definitely help you.

4)      Organization: Here is a tip that can save you time and money:  get really organized before you go to an attorney’s office for a consult.  Have a list prepared of all the times that the court order has been violated.  It is a good idea to keep a journal or computer log that you can enter information into regularly.   Have your documents in a folder, organized by date. 

 


A Motion for Contempt is filed along with (and is part of) a “Motion to Enforce”.  This means that the judge is asked to enforce the prior order that is not being followed AND is being asked to punish the person who is not following the order by making him/her pay back sue child support, if any, pay attorney’s fees, and/or serve jail time. Because the result can be very severe and can result in a loss of a person’s liberty (even for a short time), the standard of proof is strict.  The judge may decline to find someone in contempt, but still enforce the order that is requested (such as payment of child support).   

 

A Motion to Enforce can be filed without a Motion for Contempt and very often it is.  The enforcement motion filed alone can save legal fees and have the intended result.  In cases where a person has to be taken back to court again and again, a Motion for Contempt is more appropriate.  It is also appropriate in cases where a party’s misbehavior is so terrible that it is a risk to the health and safety of the child. 
 

A consultation with a family law attorney can help you determine your options and get legal advice to help you protect your legal rights.

 

Kalish Law Office; The Woodlands, Texas

“Passionate, Professional and Personal. We Make the Difference”

Friday, July 8, 2011

Proof of Lawful Presence in U.S. Required From Driver's License Applicants

 If you cannot prove you are in the U.S. legally, you will not be able to renew your Texas Driver's License.

On June 28, 2011, a law relating to requirements for obtaining or renewing a Texas Driver's License was approved by the Texas Legislature.

This law is a further clarification of a 2008 law, and policies and procedures that the Texas DPS has been using since the 2008 law.

Those applicants who are U.S. citizens and already have their social security numbers on file with the DPS will probably not be affected by these changes. 

Non-citizens, such as temporary visitors, will need to show that they are here legally.  This means that their visas have not expired. For instance if someone came in to the U.S. legally and can prove this, but has overstayed and is on an expired visa, they would be denied.

The law could be a problem for those who are here legally, but can't prove it.  For instance, persons born in the U.S. but delivered by a midwife, or those in specific situations that require clerks to view documents and interpret immigration law.  

There is also a concern that this new law may result in more people driving without a current license and without liability insurance.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Update for our clients; How a Federal Governmental Shutdown Might Affect You and Your Case

If the U.S. government does shutdown temporarily the effects will be felt in various ways.   This is a basic list of general effects that we can expect for the types of cases we handle at this firm.

In general: all "nonessential" governmental functions will be shut down. This could affect your ability to obtain information from some of the informational "800" numbers operated by the federal government.  

If you have filed for a passport renewal, or a visa you will most likely be affected.

If you are seeking information from a federal agency (such as social security adminstration) or need information or documentation regarding a federal pension, you may face longer than usual wait times.   This could indirectly affect your ability to complete an inventory and appraisal in a divorce or probate case. FOIA (Freedom of Information Act Requests) could have additional time added on to their already slow process times.  

Social security benefits, applications and investigations would be delayed.  

Many governmental employees will be affected. In the past, some have received pay later, while some people who work under federal contract have had pay suspended.

At this time it is uncertain whether a shutdown will occur, or how long one would last if it did.  

For more information and background on what to expect, see this article at About.com  http://bit.ly/gD9bJz and this one at MRP News http://bit.ly/dTAaUK

 

Monday, March 28, 2011

Excellent Resources for Texas Employers

Running a business is demanding and business owners can use all the help they can get.  I just attended my second TWC (Texas Workforce Commission) Business Conference for Texas Employers.

Is it my opinon that many, if not most Texas employers don't know about the resources available to help them.  For some employers, "TWC" may have a negative connotation because the agency is associated with "having to pay taxes", regulations, claims for unemployment or injury against the company, and audits.  

In reality, the TWC has an entire section that is devoted to Texas employers. There are three Chairmen appointed to the Texas Workforce Commission. One represents employers, one represents labor, and one represents the public.  As part of the agency's service to Texas employers, the following resources are available:

1. The Texas Employers' Hotline, where employers can call and ask questions 1-800-832-9394

2. The magazine "Texas Business Today", which is available free of charge by an online search, or by subscription.  http://www.twc.state.tx.us/news/tbt/tbt.html    In addition to containing legal information, this publication also contains good, practical advice about day-to-day situations in the workplace and advice about how to deal with them.  For instance, in the Winter 2011 issue, check out the articles "Taking steps to deal with poor attitudes in the workplace" and "How to deal with employees who refuse to sign policies or warnings" (by William T. Simmons, Legal Counsel for Chairman Tom Pauken).

3. An all-day seminar for Texas employers which is " a steal" at $85 and de-mystifies employment laws and regulations, unemployment benefit calculations, and hiring procedures.  Seminar materials include a text and disk with explanation of the laws affecting Texas employers, required posters, sample forms and sample language to help you create office policies.  

4. Programs that reward Texas employers for hiring an unemployed worker, or a veteran. Check out http://www.twc.state.tx.us/news/txback2work.pdf 

5. the "Skills for Small Business" Program for tuition reimbursement for employees who further their skills by attending work-related classes at a local community college.

Texas employers, be sure to check out these helpful resources! Be aware that some of the programs available may not be available forever, as funding may be limited.

Kalish Law Office has been representing businesses and families in The Woodlands, Texas since 1984. www.kalishlawtexas.com

 

 

 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

How to Get the Most From Your Initial Consultation with a Lawyer

If you have a legal issue that may require you to hire an attorney, you will want to get the most from your initial consultation. Here are some tips to help you do that.

 

  1. When you first contact the law firm, be prepared to briefly state what issue you have. (For example:  “I need to file for a child support increase”, or “I am thinking of starting a new business.”  By stating what you need, the staff will be able to direct you to the attorney who is best suited to handle your case.

 

  1. Prepare a brief summary of the problem and what you hope to accomplish at the consultation appointment.  For example, do you want to have your attorney negotiate for you? Do you want to file suit? Do you want guidance in how to handle the matter yourself? Do you just need to know your rights, duties, and options?

 

  1. Gather and bring any documentation that might be important to the case, especially if the case involves a contract, deed, or decree.  If you have photos or phone logs, look those over, put them in a folder and be prepared to refer to them. If you have been sued, be sure to bring the original citation that you were served.  Even if you don’t need the documents at the first appointment, gathering them will help you review the facts and will save time later.

 

  1. Make copies of anything that you want to leave with the lawyer if you decide to hire him/her. Except in rare circumstances, it is best for you to retain your original documents.  Making an additional copy in advance can save time and expense and will allow each of you to review the same document while talking about the case.

 

  1. Be sure that you know how much the consult will cost and how much time you will be given.   You will want to state your problem, get the attorney’s opinion, and then have a chance to ask any questions that you might have.  A consultation fee will generally be set for a certain period of time (i.e., 30 minutes). For complicated cases, it may be necessary to schedule additional time beyond the allotted time.

 

Being organized ahead of time will help you get the most from your consult and will help to provide clear communication between you and your attorney.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Kalish Law Texas contact information

Our new office is located at 26009 Budde Rd, Ste. A-100, The Woodlands, Texas 77380

If you have attempted to contact us during our move and have not received a reply, please call our firm at 281-363-3700 or resend your fax or email as there may have been a disruption in our communications during the move.

Thank you!

 

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Sunday, March 13, 2011

We have moved!

We have moved! Please be patient with us as we are still in the process of reconfiguring all of our technology!  In the meantime, you can reach us at our telephone number of 281-363-3700.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Kalish Law Office is Moving; Just Around the Block

Our office is moving this week!!

We are going to be right around the block. Our phone number, fax number and email will remain the same.

Our new office is located at 26009 Budde Rd, Ste. A-100, The Woodlands, Texas 77380.

Please be patient with us while we make the move!

 

 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Risks of Refinancing Your Home With Your Spouse or Partner

WARNING!  Joining in the refinancing of a home previously owned by your spouse or significant other does not guarantee that you actually “own” part of the house.

 

Signing the Promissory Note DOES mean that you are legally responsible to pay the mortgage on the property. However, it does NOT mean that the property is automatically in your name, or that if your spouse dies you will automatically inherit all or part of the property.

Here is a specific example that could contain a nasty surprise waiting somewhere down the line:

 

Husband has three adult children by a previous marriage. He is divorced from Wife #1, and he owns his home, which is in his own name.   He then marries Wife #2.  


Husband and Wife #2 evaluate their joint financial situation.  They decide that it would be financially helpful to them if they were to refinance the home that they live in. They apply for, and are granted a new mortgage.  It is at a better interest rate, especially since Wife #2 is a co-borrower. Husband and Wife #2 both sign the refinance agreement, but there is no deed filed in the county records which gives part ownership of the home to Wife #2.


The couple goes along happily with their life.   Then, Husband dies suddenly, and without a will. 

Under Texas law, his prior children inherit the ownership of the home, since the deed is in his name and it is his separate property. 

 

Wife #2 does have a “life estate”, which means that she is allowed to live in the same home that her stepchildren now own. Under the paperwork she signed with the mortgage company, she is still obligated to pay the mortgage, but the home is not in her name and she cannot pass the home or any portion of it on to her own descendants. If she chooses to just walk away from the home, she is leaving behind the money that she and her deceased husband have already put into it, and her stepchildren don’t have to compensate her.

 

This is a sobering set of facts, but unfortunately it is very common.


It is very unlikely that the Husband in the example wanted this to happen.   It is more likely that he wanted Wife #2 to own 100% of the house upon his death. 

 

The situation could have been avoided in two ways. First of all, a properly drafted and filed deed would have protected Wife #2, because it would have given her immediate rights and ownership in the property.  It would have legally given her her own portion, regardless of whether the Husband lived or died. 


Secondly, the Husband could have had a valid will, which would have spelled out exactly what was to be done with his 50% upon his death. 

 

It is important for everyone to understand all of the consequences of refinancing property. It is especially when dealing with second marriages, stepfamily issues, and non-traditional families. Couples who are in same-sex partnerships and cannot legally marry each other and couples who are unsure of their "common law" status or choose not to marry can be especially vulnerable to these problems.  A timely legal consult can avoid serious problems and unpleasant surprises later on.

 

Kalish Law Office has been representing clients in family law and real estate law since 1984.  Located in The Woodlands, north of Houston, Texas281-363-3700www.kalishlawtexas.com

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Dealing With Financial Issues Long After the Divorce is Final?

Although a final divorce decree is supposed to “split” the property once and for all that is not always the case.

There are a variety of reasons why a couple may find themselves dealing with property issues months or years after the final decree has been signed.  Here are some of the most common:

 

Retirement assets (401K, private and governmental retirement benefits and accounts, etc.)   Some of these accounts cannot truly and finally be ‘split’ until the retirement actually occurs.  Even if the paperwork is done at the time of divorce and is submitted to the benefits department or managing investment company, there can be additional steps before the benefits or funds are cleared for release.  Specific court orders for this purpose (called “QDROs” for Qualified Domestic Relation Orders”) are usually required.  Requirements for allocation of retirement benefits vary from company to company and these QDROs can become quite complicated at times.  Because this issue can also become time-consuming, some couples who are anxious to be finished with the divorce process decide to just “deal with it later”.

 

Real Estate Issues:  The most common scenario here is the sale of the marital residence and split of the proceeds.  The divorce decree should specify the allocation of equity, but the actual sale may not occur until months or years later, depending on the terms of the decree.   There may also be additional real property (usually income-producing) which the divorced couple has chosen to keep as co-owners for financial reasons.  Another common situation occurs when the final paperwork transferring real property was not finished, signed or filed at the time of divorce for a variety of reasons (for example, one spouse refuses or forgets to sign, or cannot be found).

 

 Split of debts:    A divorce decree can allocate a joint debt between the spouses, but it cannot take away a creditor’s right to be paid by co-debtors.  For instance, if a husband and wife owe Credit Card Company $ 10,000.00 and the Judge orders Husband to pay the $10,000.00, Credit Card Company may still legally sue both spouses if the husband does not pay the debt.   In that event, the wife will be able to sue the husband for not paying the debt, but she still is held responsible to Credit Card Company.

 

Titled Vehicles:    For any vehicle with a title, the title should be changed to reflect the name of the party to whom it was awarded. This is a step that often gets overlooked, especially for property which isn’t used often or doesn’t have a lot of monetary value (trailers or boats that aren’t used often, “spare” pickups or heavy equipment).  This can be remedied with a proper power of attorney for transfer.

 

Other Accounts:  Bank accounts, stock, and safe deposit boxes fall into this category.  Some of these assets may be accessed and split by showing a certified copy of the divorce decree, available through the district clerk’s office of the county in which you received your divorce.

 

Fraud in the Divorce:  If a spouse has hidden assets from the other spouse fraudulently during the divorce process, the innocent spouse may have a legal remedy.  In this case, it would be important to contact an attorney to determine if there is anything that should be done.

 

Some of the above problems can be remedied without the assistance of an attorney and others can become very complicated and may even require court intervention. 

 

Kalish Law Office has been representing clients in divorce and family law issues since 1984.  We are located in The Woodlands, Texas, just north of Houston.  281-363-3700

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Completing Your Child's Foreign Adoption in Texas

When a family returns to the United States with their child who was adopted in another country, there are often additional steps to be taken.  

When a Texas resident adopts a child from another country, that adoption is governed by Texas law, United States law, international adoption law and treaties, and the law of the country where the adoption took place.  In addition, the area of adoption law has been changing rapidly for the past several years, so the requirements or recommendations will not be the same for everyone.    For instance, a child adopted in China in 2009 may have a very different legal situation than a child who was adopted in Guatemala in 2000.

 

There is a lot of confusion between “readoption” and “reaffirmation”, although the words are often used interchangeably.   Whether the more detailed “readoption” or the relatively simple “reaffirmation” (recognition) of the adoption is required is ultimately determined by the paperwork and facts in each situation, by the Texas County in which the suit is filed, and even by the individual Texas judge’s requirements for his/her court.

 

People often ask if they “must” do anything further.  If there are additional requirements that must be met to insure legal status with U.S. immigration, the answer is “yes”.  In some situations, not following through could cause an “uncertain” or “undocumented” status when the child reaches 18.  (Please note:  If a child became 18 prior to February 27, 2001, when the Child Citizenship Act came into effect, that child was not granted “automatic” U.S. Citizenship. If you or your child came in prior to February 27, 2001 and never took final steps with US Immigration, you should investigate or seek a legal consult to see what options are available to remedy this situation.)

Although it may not be legally required for a child who has been granted US citizenship to take the additional step of having the foreign adoption reaffirmed in Texas state court, it is always a good idea.  After the judge signs the order, a U.S. (Texas) birth certificate with the child’s name and both parents’ name on it can be obtained.  The judge can also grant a name change when necessary.  Taking care of these details will assist the parents and child with documentation issues when registering for school, getting a driver’s license, applying for employment, or applying for college, scholarships and financial aid and is the “final step” in a long, successful adoption journey!

 

The Kalish Law Office has been representing clients in domestic and foriegn adoptions for over 20 years. www.kalishlawtexas.com   281-363-3700

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Five Ways to Save Money on Legal Fees

So, it's finally happened. You have no choice; you have to consult with a lawyer. Everyone knows legal fees can be expensive, but what everyone doesn't know is that there are ways to save money on legal fees.

•1. Get a consultation. A good legal consultation is essential and well worth paying for. This 30 -60 minute block of time is going to help you decide the course of your entire legal situation. This is your chance to ask questions, get information, and evaluate the lawyer and law firm. In short, you are going to be a thirsty sponge, soaking up all the information you can get, and using it to make intelligent, informed decisions

•2. Organize yourself. Take notes, snap pictures, keep a diary, separate papers by subject and date into folders. Make a summary of events. The more information that you condense for use by yourself and your lawyer, the better chance of success. Your intelligent "summaries" will help save you legal fees. Don't ever give your lawyer unorganized "shoeboxes" full of junk to wade through. Organize it yourself, you'll save legal fees.

•3. Don't give tons of unnecessary information. Trying to help, clients may give reams of paper or stacks of disks that are irrelevant and unrequested. The lawyer will spend many billable hours reviewing information that isn't necessary and then will have to charge for his/her time. The same goes for repetitive information given by email or phone.

•4. Do for yourself when you can. In some cases, you may not have to "retain" a lawyer to handle something, but may choose instead to visit the attorney periodically for assistance in handling the matter yourself. (Example: taking your own case to small claims court, negotiating changes in a contract you have been given, or collecting a judgment you've won). Even if you have retained a lawyer, try to complete paperwork on your own first, rather than spending billable hours reading it for the first time while your lawyer sits and watches you. Make a "working copy" for yourself, and a "clean copy" that you can use in case you have to meet with your lawyer again.

•5. Don't "do for yourself" when it makes the situation worse. We've all heard the expression "pay me now or pay me more later" (I've had a plumber and an auto mechanic tell me this- it was true). It can apply in a legal situation. There are certain times when you absolutely should not be handling your own case. (Example: when you have to file documents with the court that you don't have the training to prepare, when a lot of money or emotional well-being is at stake, and when you are too emotional or exhausted to do yourself justice.) There is a reason for the phrase "The lawyer who handles his own case has a fool for a client". We even hire each other when we have to! Recognize those times and hire a lawyer before damage is done.

Following these few guidelines can significantly reduce the amount of money spent in legal fees!

Kalish Law Office has been representing businesses and families for over 26 years.  www.kalishlawtexas.com       281-363-3700

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

PItfalls to Avoid When Splitting Assets in a Divorce

It is easy to focus on just one piece of the puzzle, such as who will get the house or who will have to pay a particular bill.  Don’t do this.  It is important to look at the entire picture.  It may be better to let your spouse have the house if you really will not be able to afford to stay there.   Even if you want to keep the house for the sake of your children, you don’t want them to feel the stress of your struggles to maintain it for the next several years.  

Sometimes it is difficult to make a “business decision” due to the emotion of the situation.  That is why it is important to work closely with your attorney and listen to his/her suggestions. Putting things on paper where you can see them may help. You and your attorney may decide to put together an inventory to show assets and liabilities of the marriage, and a proposal showing which spouse should receive each asset or debt.

 

There may be a temptation to focus on cash flow in the short term and being unrealistic about long term possibilities.  It may be tempting to use account funds or home equity to pay off bills immediately for the feeling of a fresh start, but that may not make the best financial sense.  You might be tempted to consider paying more child support or debts that you will realistically be able to afford, just to “get it over with”.  But decisions made in haste or desperation are often the worst ones, and you could end up mentally kicking yourself for years.


While being too lenient is not a good idea, neither is being too tough.  If you find yourself getting so caught up in the battle that you are determined to win at all costs you need to stop. Ask yourself whether your stance is costing you more in attorney’s fees and time than you are likely to gain, or whether your determination is hurting your children emotionally or harming your health.

 

During a divorce, schedules are disrupted and emotions run high.  It is more important than ever to take good care of yourself physically.  If that seems like impossibility, even a ten-minute break everyday where you clear your mind or do something you really enjoy can be helpful.   Consider the time spent taking care of your health as an investment in your future happiness.  

A good working relationship with your lawyer is necessary and can help you keep things in perspective. Having a support system of friends and family that will allow you to vent when necessary will also help keep you on track.

 

Kalish Law Office has been representing divorce clients since 1984.  "Passionate, Professional and Personal. We Make the Difference."  www.kalishlawtexas.com

Monday, February 14, 2011

Prepare in Advance for The Sale of Your Business

If you are considering selling your business, there are things that you can do to prepare in advance and make the process easier.

It is often very helpful to have a legal consultation early in the process, to guide you in organizing your thoughts and your documents.


If you have a business organization set up already (corporation, partnership, LLP or LLC), you should make sure that the documents that you have filed with the state and the IRS are available and up-to-date. 


You should also consider whether you will need to get the business evaluated, and also be sure that your bookkeeping and taxes are in order. 

Decide what you are willing to sell.  Different aspects of the business may be “split” off from the sale. For instance, if you own the property that the business operates from, you may decide to sell the business itself, but keep the physical location in your name and act as the landlord to the new owner.  You may decide to sell client lists and the system you have developed for making it a success, but you may not want to sell the name or transfer the corporation to the new owner.

 

If you are in a business or profession that has licensure or regulation, you should be sure that you are aware of any limitations and regulations that must be followed to allow a sale and transfer to a new owner.

 

A realistic evaluation of assets, liabilities and future potential of the business will help you to determine a fair price to ask.

 

Once you have things in order, you can begin to advertise or network to gain a potential buyer.  

 

By organizing yourself early, you have a better chance of being ready to move right away if an opportunity should present itself. A business lawyer can help you by guiding you through the process, as well as telling you the documentation that will be needed to take the transaction through sale, to closing and transfer.

 

Kalish Law Office has been representing business owners in buy-sell transactions since 1984.  “Passionate, Professional and Personal. We Make the Difference.”  www.kalishlawtexas.com The Woodlands, Texas


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Three Things to Consider When Deciding Whether to Incorporate

There are three main considerations when deciding whether or not to change the form of your business.  1) Tax benefit; 2) liability protection; and 3) the time-cost analysis of changing your company’s legal status

 

Tax Benefit:

 

Oftentimes the tax benefit analysis is not a “legal question”, but rather an “accounting question”.  If you are unsure of whether you might benefit from a change in your business structure, ask your CPA for more specific information about the different options (incorporation, partnership, LLP or LLC) and what they would mean to you in dollars and cents.

 

Protection:

 

As far as asset protection, the first rule is to always have the appropriate insurance policies!    But even the most careful business owner can find him/herself involved in a lawsuit.   You may not have significant assets right now but be aware if that a judgment is rendered against you it may be collectable several years from now.  So you should not ever take asset protection lightly.

 

If you already have significant assets and your business is doing well it is time to consider taking asset protection to a level beyond the mere purchase of insurance policies. Structuring your business properly will make it a separate legal entity from you.  However, whether or not a business structure protects you and your personal assets depends on the situation, the type of business you are in, and other laws and regulations which apply. You can’t assume that just because you have a corporation or an LLP that you and your assets will be protected in all instances.

 

Time-Cost Analysis:

 

If you are a sole practitioner, you are your business and your business is you. If you form a business corporation, your business will be a separate legal “person.”  You will have additional paperwork to do.  In addition to meeting federal tax requirements, you will have to be sure that your information on file with the state is current, your “entity books” are updated regularly, any required annual statements are filed, and your franchise taxes are paid in a timely manner.   Failure to do these things can result in forfeiture of your status.   We have our clients docket the important dates on their business calendars and return to us yearly for a review and update, usually between Jan and April.

 

Any business entity that is formed must comply with all laws, If you are in a profession which requires a license you will need to be aware of restrictions on what a business may be named, what form of organization may be used, what types of licensed professionals are allowed to practice together, and whether or not an entity may include non-licensed individuals as principals.   

 

If these additional requirements help you save money, protect your assets, grow your business, and stay out of legal trouble, the time that you spend will be well worth it.   

 

Plan Ahead

 

Talk to a business attorney about the types of options available to you.  Explain your current status, your short-term and long-term business and financial goals.  Adequate planning and preparation is the key to success.

 

To get the most out of your consultation, make a list of your goals and a list of your questions. A summary sheet which describes your business (length of operation, industry, owner/partner information, financial status) will also help the attorney in analyzing the situation.  

 

Kalish Law Office has been serving business clients in The Woodlands, Texas and surrounding areas since 1984.  www.kalishlawtexas.com