Wednesday, December 19, 2012

"Untransferred" Property from a Long-Ago Divorce


If you have a final order of divorce in which you (or your spouse) was awarded property, you should make certain that the proper party has actual title. Not only do you want to be sure that you have what you are entitled to have, but you are also going to want to be sure that your name isn’t still on a title that you DON’T want.
Here are some problems than can occur if property from a divorce has not been transferred.
  1. You attempt to sell a piece of property that you were awarded in the divorce and find that your ex-spouse’s name is still on the deed or title, slowing down or negatively affecting the sale;
  2. You apply for a mortgage or loan and your list of assets and debts is not accurate;
  3. Your ex-spouse, who has a terrible driving record, has an accident with a motor vehicle which is still in your name;
  4. A bank account, investment account or retirement benefit that you counted on does not come through because the final paperwork was not completed.
These situations and more can happen. Generally the parties are instructed to appear at the office of one of the attorneys to sign the proper documents by a specific date. However, one or both parties may be feeling such a sense of relief from the divorce being granted, that they are anxious to move on. The lack of follow -through is usually unintentional.
In some situations, there are no additional documents to be drafted, but the divorce decree itself is adequate to transfer title. In this situation, a certified copy of the divorce decree is used and filed or presented in the proper manner (depending on what is being transferred).
In other situations, more extensive documents may be required (such as documents to split retirement accounts).
If your ex-spouse absolutely refuses to cooperate with the transfer, it may be necessary to file an enforcement action with the court.
If you have lingering issues with property transfer, a family law attorney can help you determine your options.

Kalish Law Office - The Woodlands, Texas  281-363-3700
"Passionate Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference."  Family Lawyers, since 1984

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

A few simple tips to protect your private info

It’s good to be conscientious and to be clear in your writing. However, you should also keep security in mind.   

Years ago, it was common to include complete Social Security Numbers in important legal documents such as powers of attorney, wills, and the like.  These documents then might be filed in the county records.   Then along came identity theft.   A few years ago the Texas county and district clerks began “redacting” (blacking over) the identifying information that was available to the public and made people vulnerable to theft. 
Times have changed. Keep in mind the following tips when you are drafting, storing or using legal documents.

1.       If you don’t need to give the identifying information, don’t.   We often have clients request that we include their entire social security number, passport number, or driver’s license number on important documents that we are drafting for them. When we ask “why”, we find that the clients are doing this “for identification purposes”.  This usually isn’t necessary. For instance, if the intended audience for your document is your family (your will), your doctor (your health care documents), or your bank (your power of attorney), they already know who you are.   You can put your address and the last 3 digits of the identifying number and that will serve the purpose just as well.  A document can be used along with the production of a actual picture I.D. to whoever is examining it.

2.       Don’t file things in the county records that don’t need to be there.   For instance, a will is valid whether it is filed there or not and most people don’t need to file theirs (in rare circumstances it may be advisable).  You especially do not want to file something in the county record that has detailed information about bank and investment accounts, and includes the full account numbers and institutions.  Ditto for any document that contains a listing of “my valuable property” along with where it is stored.

3.       If you are filing something “for public record” it is just that, public record. 

4.       Don’t leave these types of documents lying around where anyone can see them. Keep all your important documents in a safe place, accessible to you, and to your family member(s) or business associate(s) who “need to know”. 

Now, there are times when you may be required to divulge certain information of a private nature.  But don’t be afraid to ask your doctor, lawyer, accountant or realtor why such information is needed and where, how and for how long it will be stored.  Give only as much information as needed.
Following these tips will help you have better control over who sees your personal information.

 Kalish Law Office: The Woodlands Texas - Business & Family attorneys in The Woodlands Texas
Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference! Since 1984

Monday, December 3, 2012

Is your Ex Spouse Ignoring Court Orders? What to do

If you have a final court order and your ex-spouse is ignoring the orders, you should consult a Texas family law attorney to discuss filing a Motion to Enforce.

A Motion to Enforce the court's judgment is available to enforce a prior court order in a divorce case. The enforcement may be about the division of property, for example, turning over certain assets, money, real estate or property to you.

A Motion to Enforce may also be filed when there is a final court order relating to a child-conservatorship (custody), visitation, child support, medical support or other provisions of a final order.

Here are some examples of specific situationas when a Motion to Enforce may be appropriate in a Texas family law case:

1. One Ex-spouse did not pay certain debts or taxes as he or she was required to do in the court-ordered property division.

2. A parent is ignoring court ordered restrictions (is living with a boyfriend or girlfriend in opposition to the court order, is not allowing the other parent to exercise visitation, has not turned over the child's passport as required, is drinking during or before visits with the children when that has been strictly prohibited).

3. A Ex-Spouse refuses to sign documentation that they have been ordered to sign (to transfer an auto or home or split bank accounts, for instance).

4.  A parent is not paying child support, medical insurance, or health care expenses for the child.

There are times when a Motion to Enforce may be combined with, or may include requests that the judge enter a restraining order or find a party in contempt.  Whether or not this is appropriate depends on the type of "disobedience" that is going on, how serious it is, and whether it poses a threat to the health, safety or welfare of the parties or children.

In divorce cases and other cases affecting children, the court which put an order into effect retains the jurisdiction to enforce it. Therefore if you are having problems because your ex is ignoring a court order, you should see a Woodlands Texas Family Law Attorney to find out how what your options are.

Kalish Law Office.  Divorce and Family Law since 1984

 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Why it is so important to have a legally valid Donor Contract or Gestational Agreement

Family law is a complicated area of law, even when the subject is a nuclear family in which the two people involved are both biological parents of the children in the family. However, even more complications can arise when venturing into areas of law that are different from what most people in our society have come to think of as “the traditional family”. Specifically I am speaking of situations involving assisted reproduction, surrogacy, gestational agreements, and donors.
There are many available options for people who want to become parents. While technology and societal acceptance has led to an increase in options (and a willingness to use them), the law has not really caught up yet.
If you are involved in, or are considering, an alternative situation, you should be completely educated and aware of the risks, and of your rights. A situation that may seem simple can create heartache if not properly prepared.
The biggest risk comes from situations in which “everyone is friends” and so it is thought that there is no need for a legal agreement and no need to use a doctor or clinic. Here are the most common:

  1. A woman desires to have a child and a male friend agrees to be the donor. They both agree orally in advance on all the details of what will happen when the baby arrives. Often, the man will agree not to be involved in any way and the woman will promise not to seek child support. They draft an informal agreement (which is later found not to be legally binding) or they decide not have a written agreement at all, because they “trust each other”
  2. A woman agrees to bear a child for a friend (or couple). She plans to give the baby to the person (or couple) after the birth and promises to “sign away” her rights.

Those are the common situations, now here are the potential problems:

  1.  
    1. No matter what the situation, and how good and trustworthy the involved parties are, people change their minds. They do so for all kinds of reasons, and having a child brings out some of the deepest emotion that humans experience. (see this article from the Houston Chronicle, Sept 20, 2012, showing just such a situation, “Court may define what a mother is”).
    2. It isn't just up to the adults who are involved. The child will have rights, the biological parents have rights, and unless a court agrees to terminate someone's parental rights, it will not happen. The two people who are the biological parents (plus their mates and families) may well end up bound to each other for at least 18 years, like it or not! A judge can order child support, even if one parent doesn't want to pay it and the other parent doesn't want to receive it!

What to do?

First of all, an oral agreement is just not going to be enough. You will need to find out what your options are in the scenario that you are planning. Hopefully, you will have a consultation with a Texas family law attorney before trying to conceive so that you can be certain that you are doing everything possible to make sure that your agreement is within the law, and will be likely to be upheld by a judge. Certainly two people can get together and conceive, but what happens afterwards may be completely out of their control. Why take that chance?

In looking for an attorney, you should seek a Texas family law attorney who is familiar with and has experience with alternative family arrangements, sperm donor agreements, and gestational agreements. The attorney should be willing and able to help you deal with the initial paperwork and court filing to completion. If you are dealing with a doctor or agency in a gestational or surrogacy situation, your family law attorney can help you, communicate with the involved health care providers, and draft and file all necessary paperwork at the proper time.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Why you shouldn't wait until after the New Year to Start your Divorce

If you know that divorce is imminent, you may be tempted to wait until after the holidays.  In some cases, that is a wise decision.  However, waiting until January may not be the best decision in other situations. Here are some reasons why it may be best to go ahead and start the process now:

  1. Filing the divorce can curb holiday spending.  If you are worried that your spouse may go overboard at the holidays consider whether or not knowledge of divorce may cause him/her to avoid impulse purchases.   If you live in a Texas county with “standing orders” there are also court orders restricting spending and these orders will apply as soon as the case is filed. (Montgomery county Texas and some other Texas counties have these standing orders). 
  2. You can ask for a court hearing to deal with additional issues and get temporary court orders that will be in effect through the holidays and afterwards. These orders will be more specific than the general “Standing Orders” and will deal with spending money, paying bills, taking care of property, and visitation with the children.
  3. If you are in an abusive relationship, or one in which your spouse is dependent on alcohol or other substances, you may benefit from having an attorney prior to the difficult holiday season. Knowing that you have an attorney, and the case is assigned to a specific court may make your spouse think twice before acting out and will create consequences if s/he does.
  4. All cases, even agreed ones, must be on file at least 60 days in Texas before they are finalized. You can start the “clock ticking” by filing sooner, rather than later.
Every case is different, so you can’t automatically assume that it is a bad idea to get things started prior to the holidays.  Even if you choose not to file the divorce (or choose to file it but not have your spouse served right away), you can see a divorce and family law attorney. At the divorce consultation the family law attorney can tell you about the process, explain your rights, and help you plan for the future.  This can lead to feeling less anxious at the holiday season. The divorce and family law attorneys at the Kalish Law Office in The Woodlands Texas have been representing clients in Montgomery, Harris and surrounding areas for nearly 30 years. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

"Standing Orders" in Texas Divorce Cases

"Standing Orders" are orders that are automatically in effect as soon as a divorce is filed.  These orders are court orders and have all the force of law.  Even though neither party requested them, and even if the opposing party has no knowledge that these orders exist, they are still valid court orders.

Although it may seem unusual or unfair for a person to be held in contempt when that person is not even aware of the court order, this situation is different.  "Ignorance" is no excuse!

The things that the person is forbidden to do contain some "bad things" that should not be happening anyway.  These actions have to do with physical harm, dishonesty, emotional harm, destruction and retaliation.  In other words, a "laundry list" of "bad activitites".  For instance, hiding the children from the other parent, removing the child from the state, consuming alchohol within 24 hours of having the children, making negative and harmful remarks about the other parent to (or in the presence of) the children, becoming physically violent or destructive with spouse, children, animals, pets, relatives, and property, shredding documents, cancelling insurance, hiding property, forging the name of the spouse to a check, cancelling credit cards, withdrawing funds, and so on.  These are the types of things that can get someone in huge legal trouble anytime, and even more so during a divorce.  

Can the person be held in contempt or have some of these actions be "used against them" in court, even if they have never seen the standing order?  You bet they can!

The above list does not contain everything that is in the standing orders. Also included are such things as:  making withdrawals from checking or savings without authorization of the court or opposing party, entering the motor vehicle that is in the possession of the other party, making changes in withholding for federal income taxes, and spending money on anything other than food, clothing, transportation, medical care and legal expenses. 

It is possible that someone could accidentally violate an order, if they had no idea that a divorce had been filed by their spouse (it does happen).  However, common sense applies and all the circumstances will be considered. 

The best course of behavior to follow is to NEVER do any of the things that are wrong, illegal, harmful or destructive under all circumstances (physical violence, hiding property, hurting any living thing or destroying property), whether or not there is a divorce pending.  AND if you think that there MIGHT be a divorce pending, check further before you do anything "unusual" like making changes in insurance policies or bank accounts or spending money that isn't a necessity.
A Texas family law attorney can help you find out whether a divorce case is on file, and can guide you with advice about how to handle bill paying, child visitation and daily life without violating Standing Court Orders and restraining orders.  If you are getting a divorce it is important that you know about and understand any Standing Orders in Divorce cases that apply in your Texas County.

Kalish Law Office is located in The Woodlands, Montgomery County, Texas.  Kalish Law Office has been providing divorce and family law services in The Woodlands, Texas and Houston, Texas since 1984.  

"Passionate, Professional and Personal. We Make the Difference"

 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Why Your Company Should Have an Employee Handbook

Having a employee handbook helps define your company policy and keeps everyone on track.  The very act of drafting the handbook will help you think through how you are going to handle some situtations that are sure to occur at some point. 

Employee Rules and Relations:

Your employee handbook should state your policy about sick days, vacations, leave (bereavment, disability), holidays, computer and internet policy, client/patient/customer confidentiality, benefits, permitted workplace attire, whether random drug testing may be performed, and how and when performance reviews will be conducted.

Law and Policy:

For instance: Statements about non-discrimination, equal opportunity and your company's no tolerance policy for workplace violence, sexual harassment, drinking on the job, and no illegal drug s on the premises.  Information about what employment rights the employees have under the law (if there are 50 or more employees there should be information about the Family and Medical Leave Act).

What it should NOT contain:

Do not put any sensitive and confidential information in this book.  For instance, there should not be any account passwords in the employee handbook.  The employee handbook should not contain any confidential information regarding your clients. Remember that these employee handbooks are often removed from the office and kept by employees after they leave.  Don't include information that should not leave your office.

What disclaimers should be included:

Disclaimer that says that the handbook is NOT an employment contract, it is for informational purposes only.  Make this disclaimer clear and prominent.   Also state that this handbook may be revised by the employer and will be updated from time to time. 

Have the Employee Acknowledge the Receipt of the handbook:

Have the employee sign for receipt of the book.

Both fhe Texas Workforce Commission and Small Business Association have templates and resources available online to help you write your handbook.

Kalish Law Office - The Woodlands, Texas 

Business attorneys, contract law, business start-up   Since 1984


 


 

 

 

 


 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Get it in Writing!

We often have clients come to visit us with legal troubles who shake their heads and say, “I KNEW I should have gotten that in writing!”

In some situations, having a contract isn’t just a good idea, it’s a legal necessity!  Under the law in Texas, and in many other states as well, there are some agreements that must be in writing in order to be enforceable.  This law is called the “Statute of Frauds” and it states that certain promises must be in writing and signed by the person who is “charged” with keeping the promise.

The two most common “statute of frauds” problems that we see in our office involve one of the following two situations:

1.       Real estate

2.       Promise to pay debt

Under the law, a contract for a sale of real estate must be in writing to be enforceable.   A lease of real estate for a term longer than one year must also be in writing.  In situations where the parties know each other well, especially as family or friends, it is sometimes tempting to skip the formalities.  However, doing so can leave the situation open for dispute and can leave one or both parties in a vulnerable position.

In cases where someone promises to pay the debt of another, the lender (again, often a family member, friend, co-worker or employer) is vulnerable to being left with a debt that s/he cannot collect.  For instance, a woman offers to lend some money to her boyfriend’s 29 year old son, who needs it for a move that he is making.  Her boyfriend promises to pay her back, and she trusts him, but they break up before that happens.   She cannot enforce the debt against her ex-boyfriend and most likely will be out of luck in collecting from his son as well.

The law also contains a provision that says that any agreement which is not to be performed within one year from the date of making the agreement must be in writing.   This applies to all types of situations.

Although not every situation needs a formal contract, there are some which certainly do.  Other provisions in this law involve the executor/ administrator of an estate agreeing to be responsible for certain payments from his own funds, promises involving marriage or cohabitation, payment of certain commissions, and warranty of cure or results by a health care provider. 

Sometimes people feel that they are being “too picky” or look like they are not “trusting” when they ask for something to be reduced to writing.   A non-threatening way to ask someone to sign a contract or memorandum is to say, “let’s just make sure we are all on the same page”, or “let’s get this in writing so we will both be sure of what we agreed to do later on”, or “ in case something happens to one of us, lets make sure that (our children, spouses, employees, etc.) will understand what we were doing”. 


For transactions in which there is a lot at stake (finances, security, time to be spent, relationships) it is important to know where everyone stands.  Having a consult with a contract attorney (or real estate attorney when appropriate) can help save time and money in the long run.  

Kalish Law Office, The Woodlands, Texas

Business, contract and real estate law Since 1984

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Only Way to Drive Cattle Fast is Slowly

When you own your own business, your time is precious.  Between tending to your customers, employees, administrative tasks and future plans, there never seems to be a spare minute.

However, there are times when you have to slow down, whether you feel like you can afford to or not.   The reality is, you can't afford not to!

Here are some times when you need to sit back and tell yourself "it takes as long as it takes".

1. When you are forming your corporation or partnership.   Choosing your business organization and having the documents drafted is important.  It is tempting to rush through it when you are impatient to get started, but its just not worth it.   Take your time. If things go as planned, you are going to have to live with this _______________ (fill in the blank:  partner, business organization, company name, key employee) for a loooooong time. Having an experienced business attorney help you with your set-up will minimize problems and help you make the most of your time.

2. When you are evaluating a claim or lawsuit. How to respond (and how not  to respond) are important considerations.  Responding in anger or frustration can create problems that you may not be able to fix later on.  Seek an opinion from your business attorney and insurance company when appropriate and do it sooner rather than later. Ignoring problems is not a good idea.

3. When you are making business-altering decisions.  Any major decision that has a significant impact on your business' daily operation, structure, tax liability, or future growth is one that is worth taking the time to fully investigate.   Seek good advice, do research, and consider taking some time "away" where you can think and read without interruption.

A qualified and experienced business lawyer can help you evaluate many aspects of business organization and operation and help you create a program for risk management. Don't wait until you have a problem to contact a business attorney.

Kalish Law Office- The Woodlands, Texas Business Attorneys Since 1984

"Passionate, Professional and Personal. We make the Difference."

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Why Having a Power of Attorney can be CRUCIAL for You

TRUE OR FALSE

If you have a valid current will and have all your important papers organized then you have adequately protected your family and business in the case of your disability or death.

ANSWER:  FALSE

Having a valid, current will is certainly an important step in preparing for the future.  So is organizing important papers and reviewing beneficiary designations on life insurance policies and retirement accounts.   However, a will is only helpful if you die.   What would happen if you were alive, but unable to function?  

In the event of illness or accident, you could be temporarily disabled or permanently disabled.  So your complete and total planning should take into account all three periods of time:

1.       Here you are, alive, well and functioning.

2.       You are alive, but unable to make business, medical or personal decisions

3.       You are deceased

 

It is very common for people to provide for #1 and # 3, above, but make no plans for #2.

In order to close that gap, you can sign specific powers of attorney, designating an “agent” to handle things for you while you cannot.  There are two important Powers of Attorney that you should know about; one is for health care and one if for day-to-day operations (of “personal business”, “company business” or both). If you own your own company it is especially important to make sure that you have a document in place.  

These two Powers of Attorney can be very customized for your particular situation. by a wills attorney. Other, more specific documents can be drafted to deal with particular, individualized situations when necessary.

A power of attorney allows someone of your choosing to “stand in your place” and act for you when you are unable to do so for yourself.

Kalish Law Office: The Woodlands Texas 

Wills, Powers of Attorney, Estate Planning Attorneys

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Hospital Staff, Biological Parents, Birth Parents, and the Newborn!

Years ago, dealing with a hospital during the birth of a baby about to be adopted could be quite an ordeal.   The procedures (if there were any) varied widely.  Smaller hospitals may not have ever dealt with the situation, or may not have standardized procedures.  It could be quite difficult to balance the hospital's interests and concerns (liability issues, privacy issues), the biological parent(s) needs, and the adoptive parents needs.

For instance in Texas, a common problem occurred when the bio mom preferred not to see the baby, because it was too difficult for her. However, if there were no provisions in place for allowing the baby to be cared for or released to anyone but her, she had no options. She would have to hold the baby until the "release" was complete. Once she got out of the wheelchair and out the front door of the hospital she could hand the baby to the adoptive parents. Often, the adoption attorney would have coordinated all this in advance with the parents, and made the hospital aware of what was about to happen.

Happily, things have changed.  Most hospitals now have procedures in place to deal with adoptions of newborns.

It is very important that the hospital be aware of a planned adoption well in advance of delivery.  Many options are available to adoptive parents and biological parents who have an adoption plan.  Adoptive parents are often able to be part of the entire process. In some cases they may be able to stay at the hospital, and may wear wrist bracelets which identify them.

The National Council for Adoption, in Adoption Advocate, Educating Hospitals About Adoption;  How Hospital Staff can Support Parent Considering an Adoption Plan- (October 2012),  lists the following "Practice Recommendations" for hospitals:

1. Train staff - Hospitals can develop their own training and there is also training available through a federal grant from the Children's Bureau of the Department of Health and Human Services.

2. Establish policies that are birthparent-focused and friendly to adoptive parents: For instance: one staff member is designated as an adoption expert, the bio mother's chart is clearly coded and identified, the medical records are clear about the adoption plan - including who is allowed to "room in", what will happen at the baby's release from the hospital and so on.

Making arrangements in advance with the hospital can help the biological parents and adoptive parents feel supported during this important time. An adoption attorney can assist with coordinating the process.

Kalish Law Office: The Woodlands, Texas

Adoption Attorneys

Monday, October 1, 2012

Legal Resources Available in Conroe for non-lawyers

The law library in Conroe Texas now has legal videos available for people who want to represent themselves in court, or want to just increase their legal knowledge.

The following videos are now available:

                Justice 101 – The Client’s Guide to Litigation

                You’re Hired!!! Now What? Knowing Your Legal Rights on Your First Job

                Safeguarding Our Seniors – Recognizing and Reporting Elder Abuse

 

These videos are currently being shown every Tuesday and Thursday at 1:00 and are also available on request.   Contact: ProSe Services at the Montgomery County Law Library; 301 N. Thompson, Ste. 105, Conroe, Texas 77301  Phone: 936-539-7976

These videos are especially helpful because they cover 3 topics that people may need to know before they even decide whether or not to see a lawyer.

Kalish Law Office: The Woodlands, Texas.
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. Since 1984."

Friday, September 28, 2012

Information about the New 2012 Immigration Policy- Where to Look

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On June 15, 2012, a new immigration policy was announced by President Obama.  This policy states that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will not deport certain young people who would be eligible for the DREAM Act.  They must meet strict requirements in order to be granted this relief.   If it is granted, the individual will be able to legally stay in the United States for two years and can apply for employment authorization.   At the end of two years, it may be renewed.

*This is just a policy, not a law just a policy decision, so it may be changed in the future.

There are some strict requirements that must be met in order to successfully apply.  A list of them may be found on the website of the National Immigration Law Center. 

WARNING:  Be very careful when applying for this relief.   There are strict requirements relating to having a criminal background. Even a misdemeanor may be “significant”.  Also, you should NOT travel outside the United States if you plan to apply for this relief.   

Be careful that you completely understand the policy and that you are relying on good information before applying.  If you get advice, make sure you are talking with a qualified immigration attorney or representative of an accredited an reputable legal service provider. There are legal service organizations or legal aid associations that are helping people file for a reduced cost, or for no cost.

The website of the National Immigration Law Center has excellent information on this policy.

We have had several inquiries about where to find resources about this new policy and so we have written this blog to help our readers find information that they need.   Although our firm is currently not accepting these types of cases, we want to pass along this information and ask our readers to please be careful of immigration scams. Check out the link above at the National Immigration Law Center to get more information.

 

Monday, September 17, 2012

You Can't Build a Reputation on What You're Going to Do

Keeping up with the day-to-day problems and tasks of running a small business can be exhausting, even when everything is going well.  Add in a few problems, some family obligations, a health limitation or two, and things can feel overwhelming.

It can be too easy to just think of putting one foot in front of the other, which can keep you from seeing the “big picture”. For instance, there may be a few changes that you could afford to make now, that would save you lots of time and money in the future. Only  you just can’t slow down long enough to make the changes you need.

Here are a few tips to help you budget your time and money which can pay big dividends in the future:

1.       Don’t be a Lone Ranger -  Too many small business people tough it out and go it alone, when it really isn’t necessary.   “Networking” is big these days, but don’t forget that networking isn’t only about getting new clients or patients!  Network for support as well.  Are you good at setting up an in-office system for paying bills but hate online marketing?  Find another business owner and set aside a few hours to help each other out.

2.       Get your professionals lined up in advance – Don’t wait until you have an emergency to have contact information for professionals such as a business attorney, bookkeeper, CPA or I.T  to help you out.  If you have some of these professionals among your contacts or in your networking groups, talk with them about what services they provide for small businesses like yours, and keep their contact information in a safe, accessible place that you will be able to remember when you need it.   Some attorneys  offer a short consult for a small fee that business clients can schedule in order to get to know the attorney and get advice about day-to-day operations and future dreams and plans.

3.       Don’t keep reinventing the wheel -  If you don’t have time to make a “procedure manual” for your business, at least keep a digital or paper file that you add to.   This will prevent two things from happening; 1) having to dig through old emails and rack your brain to figure out when you saw this situation before and how you solved it and 2)  this gives your employees a place to go  for guidance, instead of coming to you each time the same situation occurs.

Henry Ford said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do”.  He was correct.  But all too often we, as small business owners, expect too much of ourselves.  The key is to find a way to take small steps and make steady progress, rather than become overwhelmed and make no progress. 

So take a look at those items on your “to do” list that have been getting pushed back for the last 18 months.  What can you do to break them into small parts?

Kalish Law Office:  Business attorneys The Woodlands Texas

"Passionate, Professional and Personal. Since 1984."

Monday, September 10, 2012

Help With Business Licenses and Permits

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Business Licenses and Permits

When starting a new business, it is very important to be sure that you have the proper licenses and permits. 

This can be confusing territory to navigate if you haven’t done it before.  

Here are some ways that you can be sure that you are compliant:

1.        Talk to others with experience in your field

2.       Ask advice of the professionals that you are using to help you (CPA, Relator, business attorney)

3.       Check out the Small Business Association page for “Find Licenses and Permits” to start your checklist.

4.       Do other research online or at the library

5.       If you have a professional license check your licensing board or association’s website

6.       If you deal with hazardous materials, check the appropriate state and federal websites

7.       Attend available seminars created for this purpose from the SBA, Texas Workforce Commission, or your professional licensing board or professional association.

Be aware that there are many requirements that are particular to each situation and profession and you may have to check several sources to be sure that you become (and stay) compliant.  Don’t take a chance on getting a fine!

Once you get the licenses and permits in order, scan the paperwork so that you have a digital copy, and add calendar notifications to tell you when they need to be renewed.

Kalish Law Texas- Business Attorneys, The Woodlands, Texas

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

 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What is a "CASA" Volunteer?

“CASA” stands for “Court Appointed Special Advocate”.  CASA workers are volunteers who give their time in order to be a “special advocate” for abused and neglected children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect.

The CASA Association is nationwide (49 states). Volunteers undergo screening and training in order to advocate for the children.

Many people don’t realize that the CASA movement began in 1977.   A Seattle Judge conceived of the idea. 

CASA volunteers give of their time, meeting with the children  and getting to know them.  CASA workers change lives with their involvement.  As one former foster child puts in, “Everyone else in the system… did their jobs but nobody else tried to get to know me as a person.”   (Jackie’s Story, changed youth, CASA website).

The CASA volunteer is an important person in the courtroom, because he or she has a lot of useful information about the child’s desires and needs.  Judges have very little time to make important decisions which will have major impact on a child’s life.  These Judges rely on the insight of CASA volunteers to assist them in information-gathering.

Unfortunately, there are not enough CASA volunteers to go around. Many children could benefit from the careful attention of a CASA worker, but are not able to have one assigned to them.

You can learn more about CASA and volunteer opportunities at the CASA website.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Divorce that Crosses International Borders

Everyone knows that divorce is difficult and complicated. Legal difficulties and complications can be compounded when the divorce crosses international borders.

Cases in which this may occur are ones in which the couple is getting a divorce in the United States but;

  1. Property owned by one or both spouses is located in a different country-

Just because a judge in the United States signs a divorce decree that divides foreign property, that doesn’t mean that the foreign country will respect and enforce that decree, especially if the foreign country has not signed treaties with the United States.

It isn’t just about U.S. law anymore! International law and the law of the foreign country must be consulted. If the foreign country is a Muslim country, that law will have to be considered as well.

It would be a terrible if you were to find out that you have property awarded to you but can never collect or own it, and the foreign authorities refuse to help!

Before you agree to a split of property that includes foreign property, make sure that the agreement is able to be enforced! Your international divorce attorney can consult with an attorney in the foreign country before the property separation is finalized.

 

  1. One or both spouses and/or their child are citizens of another country or have dual citizenship or one or both spouses works, lives, or visits another country and will want to take the children along-

When working out visitation, custody and travel arrangements, it is important for the divorcing couple to know the laws in the foreign country which relate to child custody and visitation. It is also important to be aware of the restrictions the U.S. Department of State and U.S.C.I.S. may place upon minor children traveling when both parents are not with them. In addition, if a child is not a U.S. citizen, it is important to be sure that s/he has all paperwork in place that allows him/her to leave the country and come back without a negative effect on immigration status.

Some sensational (and sad) cases have made international news in the past 10 years – cases of children being caught in the middle of custody and visitation fights in which there is a conflict of laws.

It would be very terrible to send your child to visit another country and find out that the authorities would not enforce his/her return to you.

 

  1. Collection of Child Support, Spousal Support or other money due to you-

Again, just because a United States judge signs an order, it doesn’t mean that it will be considered valid everywhere in the world. And, even if it is valid, collecting money when you or your ex-spouse lives in different countries may cost more than the money that you are trying to collect!

Your international divorce attorney can help by making sure that you are realistic about what to expect and consult with the right professionals in the foreign country at the proper time.

Summary: In ALL divorce cases it is important to share important information with your divorce attorney, but it is ESPECIALLY important in international divorce to be sure that your attorney is aware of the important details. If you have a trusted attorney in the other country with whom you are familiar, give your U.S. attorney his/her contact information and allow them to talk with each other when necessary. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

A firm that is used to handling international divorce will be familiar with these issues and with consulting with foreign attorneys to look out for their client’s interests.

Kalish Law Office: International Divorce Attorneys  The Woodlands Texas

 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What to Do if You are SUED!

Video blog containing practical advice from The Woodlands Texas business and family law attorney Laura Kalish on "What to do if you are sued."

Kalish Law Office: The Woodlands, Texas. Since 1984

How to Make the Most of Your Legal Consultation

Here is a video about how to get the most from your time with the attorney while you are at your initial legal consultation.   

By Laura Kalish, attorney at Kalish Law Office in The Woodlands, Texas.

 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Senior Citizens are Targets of These Scams

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Anyone, of any age, can be the victim of a scam.   The scams take various forms, but the goal is the same- to steal something that rightfully belongs to you!  It may be your identity, cash, your credit card information, or whatever the scammer can use to make some undeserved income for him/herself.

Seniors are especially vulnerable, and scammers know this.  According to caregiverstress.com there are 6 common scams that specifically target senior citizens. If you are a senior citizen (or have a friend or loved one who is), you should be aware of these.  Please pass the information on!

1.       Telemarketing via internet, phone and mail that seeks information or a password, often in the guise of “updating your account”, “updating our contact information”, “verifying what we have”.  The scammer will usually have a few pieces of information, and will seek more.

2.       Fake Charities-  These “charities” may give a very small amount or zero to the intended recipient.  They often do not have the proper organization or non-profit status.

3.       Sweepstakes:  If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Don’t put ANY checks or money orders in your bank account!  The scammers then have your account information and the checks bounce.  They may even ask you for money (for instance, you deposit a check for $ 5,000 to your account and “pay only a $ 250 processing fee!”.   Then the check bounces and you have lost $250 plus bank fees!).

4.       Health Care Fraud:  Scammers will use your insurance card or identity information to get treatment for themselves or others.  Don’t give out confidential information to ANYONE you don’t know and be sure to shred medical documents – treat them with the same care as the most sensitive of your financial documents.

5.       Identity Theft:    The scammer will often ask for information from you to “update your account”. Identity theft can also happen by putting financial information on an improperly secured website, leaving it lying around, giving it to someone you shouldn’t trust, or not shredding financial documents.

6.       Financial Exploitation:   Some financial counselors are not reputable and have their own best interests in mind, not what is good for the senior that they are advising.

ADDITIONAL TIPS:

It is always a good idea to have a shredder available to shred private documents.  

If you have written a check or given credit card information and it later occurs to you that you may have been a victim of a scam, don’t wait! You can call your bank or credit card company IMMEDIATELY to stop payment!  You should always notify your bank or credit card company of any scam that took your money, even if it is a very small amount!  Don’t let the scammer keep getting away with it and don’t assume that the scammer will not come back to your account for a second helping!

If you are the victim of a scam, you may need to consider filing charges, contacting the attorney general or other government agency, or retaining a lawyer to help you.   If you have been scammed by a company or individual that is known to you, you may have legal options to attempt recovery of what you have lost. Contact a business attorney or consumer law attorney to get a consult and get more information.  

Kalish Law Office: The Woodlands, Texas

Family, Business and Consumer Law

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

Monday, August 13, 2012

WHY do you Have to Have a Home Study in Texas Adoptions?

If you live in Texas and are adopting a minor child, you will most likely need to have a home study prepared, and also submit to a current criminal background check.  This is true for both domestic (United States) and foreign (or international) adoptions.  Home studies used to be called "social studies" and are sometimes commonly referred to that way when speaking about them.

The professional social worker who will be performing the home study will speak and visit directly with you outside your attorney's office. He or she must be licensed by the State of Texas and must meet certain requirements in order to perform these types of studies. The judge must approve this particular person and will sign a court order stating that he or she will be performing the study in the case.

The social worker will ask you (and your spouse, if you are married) in depth questions about your family, marital and health history and will also visit your home.  You should be prepared to discuss your financial situation, your debts, and your assets.  You will be asked about any criminal history that you might have.

The social worker will prepare a report based upon his/her findings. The report will be filed with the court, and you will also receive a copy.  

Having a home study performed is a legal requirement, and is for the safety of the child.  Most people are nervous when going through a home study for the first time. You do not have to be perfect, no one is!  However, you should be cooperative and prepared.  Have documents and facts ready about the items listed above.  Since it will be up to you and the social worker to set the time of the interviews, you should keep your attorney informed about when the interviews are scheduled and completed.

It is also likely that the court will appoint an ad litem attorney to represent the child (although in some limited circumstances there may be a waiver of this requirement). The ad litem is an attorney and the ad litem's client is the child and no one else. The ad litem attorney will make a recommendation to the court about whether he or she believes that the proposed adoption is in the best interests of the child.

Home studies are not required in the case of an adult adoption.

Monday, August 6, 2012

What NOT to Choose When Looking for an Attorney

There are many variables to consider when choosing an attorney.   Here is a list of qualities that you should NOT look for in an attorney:

1.  The attorney promises results-  “We are definitely going to win this case!”;  “I promise you that you will get custody!”;  “I guarantee that you’ll be happy with the results I get for you”.    

 2,  The a ttorney is a very poor listener.If the attorney doesn’t let you tell your story, always interrupts and you are unable to get a word in edgewise it will be difficult for the lawyer to prepare your case properly because he or she may not have all the important facts. (this is different from setting limits with you and your time together, which is necessary).

3.      3. The attorney is overly negative about the legal process or other professionals. “Having an ad litem is a requirement but  a total waste of time”; “Mediation never works in these cases”; “Opposing counsel doesn’t know what he is doing”.

4.       4. The attorney lets you get away with too much.   Believe it or not, an attorney who maintains a reasonable amount of control over you actually helps you.  That type of attorney can prevent you from violating court orders, help you behave properly in depositions and in court, and get you back on track if you get overly angry or emotional during the case. Your attorney should be strong enough to take you to task if you are rude (to his/her law office staff, court personnel or other professionals), and should attempt to reign you in if you are harming your case by being overly rude or aggressive to the opposing party or attorney. 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

The High-Asset Complicated Divorce

Divorce is difficult, emotionally and financially.  During a divorce, the divorcing couple will try to determine how to split their life together into two.   This is never an easy task, and can be especially daunting when the assets are difficult to determine, or difficult to split. 

Issues can arise about which portion of the property is community property, and which portion is separate. What may seem very obvious to one spouse may not be seen the same by the other spouse.   For instance, the wife may say that an account is her own separate property because it was started before she was married and partially funded by an inheritance that she received from her family. Her husband may disagree, stating that he was consistently depositing a portion of the family funds into the account and that his wife had gratuitously placed his name on the account as a co-owner, while she made numerous withdrawals.  Which portion remains as her separate property? All? Some? None? 

When it comes to money and assets which are "co-mingled" (mixed) with other assets, determining what belongs to whom can be quite complicated.   Rarely, one spouse will have separate funds that are kept separate, in his/her own name, and are NEVER mixed in any way with the marital funds or separate funds of the other spouse. However, it is more common that things become mixed up, transferred, sold, added-to, gifted, bargained and exchanged. This is life. 

If you have a high-asset complicated divorce, it is important that you have an attorney representing you that has experience in these issues and knows how to defend what is yours. Your divorce attorney will need to work closely with you, and possibly with your accountant or other professionals, reviewing documents and asking questions, getting a full picture of your estate. This includes the date of inception of the assets, ownership and title, interest rate, growth, withdrawals, deposits, and other details.  A picture will emerge which will enable you and your attorney to explain the case to the opposing side, a mediator, judge and/or jury. You will be presented with a realistic picture so that you can determine your expectations, ability to settle, or necessity or proceeding to your day in court. 

Kalish Law Office is located in The Woodlands, Texas and has been representing clients in high-asset divorce cases since 1984. www.kalishlawtexas.com 

 

 

 

Risk Management for Advertising- Online and Off!

Everyone’s doing it! Advertising online is essential for many businesses today. Even if you, as a small business owner, have not launched an online advertising campaign, your business is probably found online in one or more directories.   In addition, you may have created at a few specific ads, whether online or as paper copy.  

But beware!  Just because an advertising campaign gets temporary results may not make it worth it in the long run.  Here are a few tips to be sure that you steer clear of trouble while printing or posting profiles, coupons, or ads, and engaging in social networking:

1.       Don’t promise more than you are willing to give.

2.       Don’t be so vague that your ads or “deals” can be interpreted two or more ways.

3.       Make sure your staff is aware of any deals or ads that are running.

4.       Take the time to update your ads. If an employee or partner is no longer with you take the time to remove their name and contact information from your online ads.  This is especially important if the parting was unpleasant.

5.       Don’t post negative things about your competition.

6.       Keep drama offline.  

7.       THIS IS ESPECIALLY IMPORTANT! If you hold a state professional license, find out whether specific rules govern the advertising of your profession.  Don’t just assume that a marketing person or marketing firm is familiar with the latest rules… it’s your license, be aware!

 These rules are quick and simple but following them can save you a lot of grief!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Do you HAVE to Pay the Debts of a Deceased Family Member?

Often when a person dies, he or she owes money.  Even if the person did not use credit cards, s/he may be responsible for a mortgage, car payment, or even medical bills from his/her last illness.

Obviously, if a mortgage or car payment is ignored after a person’s death, the property can be foreclosed on or repossessed.  But what about the other debts?

Creditors may begin contacting the deceased person’s relatives (especially if s/he had a spouse). Some are polite and honest, but other creditors are not, and often creditors are impatient.  It can be especially difficult for a grieving spouse, domestic partner, or child to know what to do and what s/he is responsible for paying, if anything.

Contrary to some popular belief, debts do not just “disappear” when a person dies.   Creditors will watch the newspapers and court notices to see if a probate action has been filed. The creditor is then able to file paperwork in the case and attempt to collect the debt from the estate.  Consequently, you might think that it is better not to file for probate at all.  This is not necessarily true. You may need to file a probate action for other reasons (to distribute and transfer real estate and bank accounts, for instance). 

Some creditors will get very aggressive and will intentionally mislead the surviving family member.   It is safe to assume that some collection agents have gotten more aggressive as they are “hungry” in this economy.  Abuses may occur, especially when the surviving family member is an elderly widow or widower.   The collection agent may encourage the survivor to “protect your husband or wife’s good name” (even if the surviving spouse is not legally required to pay the debt and to do so would work a great hardship.)

Having said that, there are some instances in which a survivor may be obligated to pay the debt of a deceased person.   For instance, if the two people both signed a contract together, or if the survivor had co-signed or guaranteed the debt of the deceased.  However, being an “authorized user” is different than being a “co-debtor”. For instance, when pertaining to credit cards, an “authorized user” is someone who has permission to use a credit card, but is not necessarily responsible for the debt. A “co-debtor” is responsible jointly for all debt that is incurred.

In some situations, a spouse may be responsible for paying a debt of a deceased spouse because of community property laws.  But whether something is a “community debt” can be a tricky question. 

In addition, there are a few other situations in which a survivor may have to pay the debts of a deceased person, and some other situations in which they are not responsible.   Many situations have to be decided on a case-by-case basis, with a good look at all the facts and the documentation that pertains to the estate.

If you are responsible for an estate (or choose to take on that responsibility), be aware that you must understand and comply with the appropriate laws.   If you distribute funds improperly you can be held legally responsible.

The Federal Trade Commission has an excellent guide about this subject on the FTC website. http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/alerts/alt004.shtm


Bottom line:  Don’t be pressured into making a decision when you do not have all the information you need. If you are grieving the death of a loved one you may need time to heal before you tackle non-emergency financial issues.  It is worth the time and money to have a consult with a Texas probate attorney to determine what options you have before you act.

Kalish Law Office 281-363-3700 Helping Texas families with wills and probate since 1984.

“Passionate, Professional and Personal. Since 1984.”  The Woodlands, Texas

www.kalishlawtexas.com

Monday, July 16, 2012

Digital Estate Planning?

Planning for the end of your life or your incapacity is important.  

Through estate planning involves drafting documents, sure, that’s a given, but in order to really be effective, you need to look at the practical aspects of daily life as well.

For instance, you may have a really good will with a well-thought out plan. You may have saved money and taken good care of your property. Maybe you have excellent health insurance and take good care of yourself.  You have a power of attorney for health care, and even a power of attorney for day-to-day business decisions.

But… can the person/ people who are designated to step in find what they need to do what they need to do?

Now days, it is common for people to pay all of their bills online.  Maybe there are no “files” in your home that would allow someone to step in and write checks for the mortgage, utilities, and other monthly bills.  If your loved one or business partner is busy worrying about you, visiting you in the hospital and trying to keep up with other duties, do you really want them to have to try to figure out who your providers are for your utilities and what your online passwords are?

Therefore, as part of your plan, make sure that the person who needs to act for you will be able to do so quickly and efficiently by understanding what needs to be done and where to go to do it.

There is a bit of extra planning involved, but the positive aspect of this is that now bills can be paid without running all over town.  

Using technology to make your life easier is a good thing. 

And for help from technology in regards to your will, you can also scan the will and save a pdf of it on your computer, and/or send it to the person(s) who you would like to have a current copy.


In addition, you might also want to take digital photos of certain items that are being handed down in your will and leave the photos with your will to help guide your executor in distribution, especially if they are family heirlooms.

The digital age has enhanced our lives, and technology can be incorporated to make our lives easier on a day-to-day basis if we are willing to look at new ways of doing things.

Kalish Law Office 281-363-3700 Serving Texas families and businesses since 1984.

“Passionate, Professional and Personal. Since 1984.”  The Woodlands, Texas

www.kalishlawtexas.com

Monday, July 9, 2012

What Kind of Training Do Texas Mediators Have?

Professional mediators in Texas who are appointed by Texas courts to mediate lawsuits have at least 40 hours of training. This training consists of classroom learning, role-play, and practical and written examinations and evaluations.

Mediators who mediate family law cases have an additional 24 hours of training in family dynamics, family law and childhood development as well.


Mediators may be attorneys or retired judges, but not necessarily.  Many psychologists and social workers do quite well as mediators, because their prior training means that the mediation process is quite natural to them.  Mediators come from a variety of backgrounds.


Mediators who mediate for neighborhood disputes or within certain companies, groups or organizations (non-court related), may or may not have the same training as detailed above.


If a court has ordered you to mediation, you can expect for your mediator to be a well-trained professional who believes in the process and has had the necessary training to deal with a variety of issues. 


Kalish Law Office 281-363-3700 Serving Texas families and businesses since 1984. “Passionate, Professional and Personal. Since 1984.”  The Woodlands, Texas   www.kalishlawtexas.com 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Should you Settle your Business Case at Mediation?

If you are involved in a legal battle and have agreed to go to mediation (or have been ordered to go by the judge), it will be helpful to you to enter mediation with the right “mindset”.

Mediation is entered into with the hope (or at least possibility) of settlement of the case.   Some litigants (parties to the lawsuit), view that attitude as defeatist and feel that they are “giving in”.   Not necessarily true. 

Before you say, “No, I will not settle!” consider the case realistically.  Review in your mind the amount of time and money that you will spend if you do not settle.  Include all of the obvious and “hidden” expenses.  More attorney’s fees and court costs are obvious, but what about lost work time, stress, transportation expenses, lost work time, lost time with your customers and so on?

Of course, there are times when you shouldn’t settle.   Sometimes the opposing side is just not being reasonable and you cannot settle, even if you’d like to, because you just don’t feel that you can afford it. You have taken a realistic attitude, listened to your lawyer, and you just cannot do it.  The reason may be financial, or there may be other reasons why you believe that you must try to "win" in court (reputation of your company, your future employment prospects, effect of a voluntary settlement on third parties).

If you can, go into the mediation with the attitude “Let’s see what happens here.   The opposing party is not usually reasonable, but I am going to do my best to put aside my anger and evaluate this practically and see if settlement is good for me.  I am going to do what I think is best, whatever that may be, and then I am not going to look back.”

If your business case is going to mediation, be ready with facts, dates, figures and any other information that can help with evaluation or settlement of the case.  Before you say "no" to settlement, be sure that you have a realistic picture of what the costs of continuing litigation might be, and whether they are worth it in a practical sense.

Kalish Law Office 281-363-3700 Serving Texas families and businesses since 1984.

“Passionate, Professional and Personal. Since 1984.”  The Woodlands, Texas

www.kalishlawtexas.com

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Why your Attorney may act Differently at Mediation

Lawsuits are stressful. If you are involved in one, you already know that.  There is often a lot at stake, whether it is business profits or the best interests of children.  

If you are involved in a suit and have an attorney to represent you, you may be used to hearing your attorney defend you quite aggressively.  Your attorney has probably gone over your case with you and been honest with you about the negatives and positives of your case. Then s/he has probably gone on to a strong defense of your position verbally, in writing, and in court.

When parties go to mediation (either voluntarily or by court order), a client can be surprised to see his/her attorney acting differently.   That is because mediation is different from court hearings.  In court hearings, the two (or more) parties each aggressively present a case to a judge, trying mightily to persuade the judge of each viewpoint. Then the judge makes a decision which everyone must respect and obey, like it or not.

In mediation, the mediator is an impartial party.  S/he does not need to be persuaded of the “rightness” of your position. The mediator is there to facilitate a settlement and help the parties discover whether or not there is any common ground.  

Therefore, it is uncommon to see an attorney appear at mediation with all of the charts and exhibits that would make an appearance at trial.  There will not be a parade of witnesses.   There will not be (hopefully) a lot of raised voices, posturing and demands.  This is not the place.  This is the place for a realistic assessment of the case, honesty between client and lawyer, and the help of a trained professional to guide the parties in determining where things stand.  

While attempting mediation may be required, a settlement is not required. No one will force the parties to agree to something that they cannot agree to.  Therefore, mediation may not be successful, in which case, the lawsuit proceeds. 

If you are a party to mediation, it is helpful to really understand the process and go into it with the proper mindset.  Then it will not be a waste of time, even if a settlement is not reached.

Kalish Law Office 281-363-3700 Serving Texas families and businesses since 1984.

“Passionate, Professional and Personal. Since 1984.”  The Woodlands, Texas