Thursday, December 29, 2016

Resources for Living and Working in The Woodlands Texas



To our readers who live here in The Woodlands and are looking for a central place to go to keep up with all the activities, laws, changes, requirements, and benefits of living in The Woodlands, check out The Woodlands Township website.   It is chock-full of  information and is constantly being updated.

Want to know the schedule for monthly & holiday events?  Want to know when the Ice Rink is open? Looking for a new club or cause to join in the new year?  Need to know about The Woodlands Covenants, Restrictions, and Easements?   They are available online, in their entirety and searchable, with just a few clicks (both residential and commercial).

Information about economic development is easily accessible for businesses.

My personal favorite is the "Residents" tab, which includes a calendar, festival information, and information about parks, pools, trails, and activities.

If you recently visited The Woodlands and are considering moving to our area, check it out.

Even someone who has been here for years can learn a lot about our area on this site!

Kalish Law Office is proud to be entering our 33rd year in The Woodlands!


Family Law, Business Law, Real Estate Law, Probate
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The 4 Ways to Divorce



Years ago, divorces were all handled pretty much the same way. A divorce may have been contentious or amicable, but the legal procedures didn't vary too much.

Now, there are choices.  These choices allow for greater flexibility in choosing the amount of money spent, the amount of time spent, the emotional energy required, and the type/level of analysis of the assets and debts of the couple.


  1. Pre-Divorce Planning: The first way available is to do some work "pre-divorce".   Prior to even filing the case, some or all of the work of dividing assets and debts and agreeing on child-related issues can be accomplished.  One way to do this is through pre-divorce mediation.  The spouses can attend a mediation session with a family law mediator in which they work out the practicalities of the divorce. They can mediate about issues during the divorce (who is responsible for what and child support/visitation issues while it is pending), and can also work on deciding the ultimate terms of the split, reaching an agreement. 
  2. Collaborative Divorce:  Collaborative Divorce is fairly new. In this process, the parties agree that they will cooperate and share information and that the divorce will not be contested. The case is designated as collaborative and each party has an attorney. Meetings occur and information is shared.  Other neutral professionals (financial planners, therapeutic counselors, realtors) may be part of the team.  If the divorce becomes contested, all agreements are off and the parties must retain other lawyers. This process emphasizes cooperation and respect. 
  3. Traditional Divorce/ Pre-trial settlement:  A divorce may be filed in the traditional way, with or without an allegation of fault.  Since mediation will normally be required by the judge in most Texas divorces, mediation occurs prior to hearings.  The couple may settle the case and enter into a binding settlement agreement, which is entered as a court order and removes the need for trial before the judge. Some people are also able to reach an agreement on their own or with their attorneys' help, without the mediation process. Settlement before the trial date removes the financial and emotional cost of a trial. 
  4. Traditional Divorce with a Trial in Front of Judge or Jury:   The traditional "day in court" still exists, for those who need it.  We have all seen television, and seen the dramatic and emotional world of "Divorce Court" and other such shows. Unfortunately, a full-blown trial is often emotionally difficult, but there are times when it is absolutely necessary.  In those cases, it is important to have a support group to count on, including an attorney you can trust and work closely with. 
Family Law, Business Law, Real Estate Law, Probate
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Wednesday, December 14, 2016

How to Transfer Vehicles After a Person Passes Away

In order to transfer Texas title to a vehicle that was owned by a person who is now deceased, certain steps must be followed.  

First of all, it must be determined if there is a lien on the vehicle. If money is still owed, it can't be transferred until the loan is paid off.  

Secondly, who should get the vehicle?  Is there a Will? If there is one, and the Will was probated, then the Executor should decide what should be done with the vehicle.   Once the Executor has the court orders (or Letters Testamentary), the Executor will have the legal authority needed. If the vehicle has been left to a certain person in the will, the Executor can transfer the vehicle to that beneficiary by signing the proper forms and the title. 

If the Will does not name a specific person as beneficiary, the Executor will need to make a determination as to who will get it, or whether it will be sold, or even donated, depending on the terms of the will and what is best for the estate. 

If there is no Will at all, then the Texas DMV form  "Affidavit of Heirship for a Motor Vehicle" may be completed.  This is one way to clear the way for title transfer.  This is done through the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles.  

There may be other options for transfer of this and other property, with the assistance of an attorney and of the probate court. 

Find the original title. If it is not available, you may have to apply for a replacement title through the Texas DMV.   

Remember that until the title is transferred, the estate can have liability for anyone who is driving the car, and the estate can be sued if something happens.  So, it is advised to "park it and lock it" until title is transferred.  Another tip to avoid liability: either accompany the new owner to the DMV to see the transfer with your own eyes, or submit a "Vehicle Transfer Notice" to the DMV, rather than relying on the new owner to get it done. 

Additional Resources: Texas DMV about transfers

Family Law, Business Law, Real Estate Law, Probate
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

After Divorce: How to title a Vehicle in Your Own Name


Once you are divorced, you will need to put the title to any vehicle that you have been awarded into your own name.

You will need to be certain that you have vehicle insurance in your own name for it. Also,see to it that you have that proof of insurance and a valid driver license and current inspection before you attempt the transfer.

Your divorce attorney may help you with this. Your ex may be asked to sign a specific form giving you the authority to transfer the title to your name.   You should also get a certified copy of your divorce decree which shows that the vehicle has been awarded to you.  Go to the county tax office with all of this documentation in order to transfer title. Be prepared to pay a title transfer fee.  For more information see the Texas DMV website. 

Remember that if you were awarded the debt on the vehicle it will be your responsibility to pay off any lien. If it was paid by your ex, be prepared to bring the release of lien with you to the Department of Motor Vehicles along with the other paperwork.


Family Law, Business Law, Real Estate Law, Probate
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

For Business Owners - The DANGER of Not Having a Power of Attorney & a Will!



If you own a business and haven't made proper arrangements, you are leaving your employees, customers, business associates, and family vulnerable.

For instance, what if something happened to you?  What if you were 1) disabled and unable to perform your duties; or 2) deceased?

Whether you have a family business, a sole proprietorship with employees, have a partner, or are a one-person show, you are going to need to have a couple things in place to be certain that things can proceed without you.

  1. Make sure that at least one other person has the knowledge to continue without you.  This doesn't mean that they have to know how to personally do every task, but they do need to have an idea of how to get it done. 
  2. Make sure that at least one other person has the legal authority to continue without you.  You need to have a Power of Attorney in place that allows your chosen agent to administer the business if you become unable to do so.  You also need to have a valid Will & Testament in case you are deceased. In it you need to name an Executor so that someone can get legal authority to make sure that your business continues or is properly sold or transferred.  (Some businesses may already have documents in place that specify with buy-out or transfer in the event of death of a partner or owner. In these cases the Executor will make sure this process happens). 
  3. When a business person dies without a will the situation is much more complicated as a legal matter and a practical matter. 
A little planning in advance will help take care of the business that you have worked so hard to establish.  Without this pre-planning, your survivors could be facing a difficult situation.  


Civil Attorneys, Family Law, Business Law, Real Estate Law, Probate
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!


Happy Thanksgiving from all of us to your family!

Warmest wishes for a holiday filled with good company, good food, and good health!


"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Can Your Attorney Withdraw from Your Case?



Can your attorney withdraw from your case?

It is permissible for an attorney to seek withdrawal from a case. If your case is in litigation, the judge in the case will need to approve the withdrawal of the attorney.  This withdrawal may be approved by the judge as long as the case is not too close to trial (or other deadlines) and the case can proceed without that attorney. The judge may deny the withdrawal if s/he believes that it would be an undue hardship on the client, on other party or a hardship to the court's schedule. It may also be denied if the judge believes that the attorney is being unreasonable. 


If you have a case which is not in litigation (lawsuit is not filed yet, or it is not the type case in which a suit will be filed), the attorney may notify you that s/he is no longer representing you.   


There are times when the attorney's withdrawal is a mutual desire and decision upon which the lawyer and client agree.

Here are some other reasons that an attorney may desire to withdraw from a case:

  1. The client is not cooperating or communicating with the law office. 
  2. The client is not doing what is requested by the attorney or required by the law (refusal to answer discovery, for example).
  3. The client has stopped paying legal fees. 
  4. The client is rude, disrespectful or verbally abusive to the attorney or office staff. 
  5. The client has missed appointments with the attorney, or not shown up for mediation or hearings.
  6. The client has asked the attorney to proceed with the case in a way that the attorney believes is unethical, illegal or ill-advised. 
Keeping the lines of communication open, being respectful of each other, working together and meeting responsibilities of the attorney/client relationship make it less likely that either party will become dissatisfied with the relationship. 


Family Law, Business Law, Real Estate Law, Probate
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Thursday, November 10, 2016

Family Heirlooms: Gift or Guilt?


"Family heirlooms" can present a problem when drafting a will or when dividing property in an estate. When I am helping clients with their wills, I have noticed that this is often a sticking point. They sometimes agonize over which family member should inherit an item, a collection, or a piece of land.

Since I help Executors in probate cases, I also see how heirlooms are ultimately divided. I see the agony and the joy that the executor and the heirs go through as the heirlooms are settled in their new homes.

Determination of what to do with heirlooms is so personal. It is difficult to give "one size fits all" advice but here are a few observations.
  1. "Heirlooms" come in all shapes, sizes and values.  
  2. The monetary value of the object may have nothing to with its emotional value. 
  3. Very often, the value of the heirloom is different to the giver (testator) that it is to the receiver (beneficiary). 
  4. Sometimes younger family members do not feel the same attachment to historical items and may not even want them. 
  5. The value placed on items is very individual and may not be predictable. For instance, your daughter may not care about a vase worth five thousand dollars but may covet an inexpensive piece of costume jewelry worth about $12 that she remembers seeing her great-grandmother wear.
  6. Keep the personality and habits of your heirs in mind. For instance, if your son is completely unattached to "things" and throws away things of value regularly, you may want to reconsider leaving him your "collection" of anything. 
  7. Inheritance of heirlooms may lead to guilt (someone keeping something because they feel they "have to"). 
  8. Someone may hope fervently that they are going to be left an item in your will but feel that it is indelicate to ask. 
  9. If you are comfortable doing so, consider discussing important items with your heirs. 
  10. If you are comfortable doing so, consider allowing your executor to distribute the items as s/he sees fit, rather than specifying a distribution yourself. 
  11. Don't deprive yourself of selling items that you could use for your survival in the impression that you need to pass it down. This also goes for selling real estate. You may be thinking that your heirs would enjoy living on the family land or owning it and they may have no intention of ever moving there and may prefer that instead you take good care of yourself! 
  12. If you are a beneficiary who has been left with items that you don't want and cannot keep, try to look past the conflict that you are feeling.  Remember that the item(s) are an expression of caring.  That is ultimately the most important thing to remember.   If you must sell or give away what you have received, try to do so in a way that honors the person who left it to you. (suggestion: passing it on to another family member or selling it and making a charitable donation of all or part of the proceeds.).

Family Law, Business Law, Real Estate Law, Probate
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Divorce Among Older People Becoming More Common

Divorce among people over 50 is becoming more common.

Infographic courtesy of McKinley, Irvin, http://www.mckinleyirvin.com/.

The Rise of Gray Divorce

If you are over 50 and considering divorce it is important to be certain that you are aware of the unique challenges presented and that you choose an attorney who understands them as well.


Family Law, Business Law, Real Estate Law, Probate
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, October 24, 2016

What is a "Simple Will"?



Most people think that their Last Will and Testament is a “simple” one, but that is not always the case.   A “simple will” is a will that leaves the person’s entire estate to their spouse, or to their children equally.  Or to their spouse first, then to their children equally if their spouse does not survive them. 

Having a step-family can create a need for a more complex will (but not always).  Other reasons that a will may need to be more detailed:
  1. Estate planning is needed and additional provisions need to be added to take advantage of available tax breaks. 
  2. There is an unequal distribution of property or funds between beneficiaries, especially if it s between people of the same "group" (children, siblings).
  3. Someone is being disinherited.
  4. Someone who is a beneficiary, or could be a beneficiary, has a special situation such as a substance abuse issue, or is incarcerated. 
  5. One of the beneficiaries has special needs. 

A complex will is not simple and will always require further discussions and direction.  

If you are taking the time to get a will, take the time to be certain that it is what you need. One size does not fit all!

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.



Sunday, October 16, 2016

What Are my Duties as an Executor?


So, you have gone through the Texas probate process and you are now a new Executor of the Estate. How much is going to be on your plate? What comes next?

Here is what you need to know:


  1. The process doesn't end when you are appointed. In fact, your work is just beginning. 
  2. You are a fiduciary. Under the law, you must act in the best interest of the estate and meet certain obligations in dealing ethically with others. 
  3. It is your job to gather the assets of the estate. You must also gather debts, decide if the debts are legitimate and eventually pay the legitimate debts. 
  4. You will need to see that medical bills and funeral expenses are gathered and that they are properly paid. 
  5. Get ready to open an estate account at the bank. For that you will need an EIN number. 
  6. You will need to see that any necessary tax returns are prepared and discover any tax liability. 
  7. You will be responsible for distributing the bequests to the beneficiaries. 
  8. You will be responsible for notifying some existing creditors and potential claimants about your appointment. You will need to do so in a certain way, that complies with the law. 
  9. You may need to formally notify beneficiaries in the will about the probate case, and give other copies of documents to them.
  10. You will have to prepare an inventory of the estate. 
  11. You will have to file certain documents and affidavits with the probate court, by deadlines that are set by Texas law, and by the court. 
  12. You may have other duties under the will (such as being responsible for cremated remains, or arranging a memorial service). 
  13. You may decide that you need further help from a lawyer. 
  14. Many counties have guides for executors available at the courthouse, in the courtroom, or online that discuss the above in more detail.  Your lawyer, if you have one, will be able to give you specific guidance and instruction. 

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Success Is In the Follow Up!


It's great to make plans and it's great to start projects, but what good do they do if you never finish them?  

It isn't uncommon for us to regularly hear comments like these around the law office; 

  • I came to see you about this legal problem 2 years ago and never did anything about it and now I am getting sued;
  • I meant to send this creditor evidence that I had already paid this but I forgot and now I am getting sued and have to answer the suit by Monday;
  • My dad was going to have a will drawn up but he kept putting it off and he died last week;
  • I opened a file with your office last year but never sent you the paperwork you asked for so that you could proceed; 
  • I have been without child support for my child for 3 years and kept good records but never did anything about it. 
A legal consult can help answer your questions and move you along the path to resolution. Once you've had one, write down your next step and give yourself a deadline to get it done.  Success is in the follow up! 



Civil Attorneys, Family Law, Business Law, Real Estate Law, Probate
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, October 10, 2016

Mediation Now Offered at Kalish Law Office



Announcement! 

Attorneys, counselors, legal experts, financial experts and mental health professionals! 

We are proud to announce that our family law attorney Siomara Ramirez Pitre is now a Family Law Mediator, Please call our office for more information, available times and dates for mediation in English or Spanish. 

We look forward to accepting your referrals and serving your clients/patients. 

Congratulations Sio! 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

How Do I Get my Ex-Spouse's Name off of the Mortgage?



We get this question a lot: "Now that I am divorced how do I get my ex-spouse's name off of the mortgage?

The answer is: You may not be able to.

Here's why.

The mortgage agreement was made between the mortgage company on one side, and you and your spouse on the other side.   Once the mortgage was signed and processed, the mortgage company had two people held responsible for paying that mortgage, and may not want to let go of one potential source of payment.  If you were the mortgage company, wouldn't you want two people responsible for paying you rather than just one?  The mortgage company certainly has the ability to grant your request, but it is unlikely.

Depending on your mortgage company, your financial situation, and current rates, you may decide to refinance your mortgage so that you are now the only one responsible for it.  But that does take an approval process.  If it works, that can be a great way to cut ties and move on, and it also can result in more favorable mortgage terms for you!

But, as far as being able to just call the mortgage company and say, "Hey, Mortgage Company! Great news, I'm divorced! You can take my spouse's name off the mortgage now!", you will probably end up disappointed.

If you are the spouse who was not awarded the house, you would probably be thrilled to have your name off the mortgage.  You may even be worried that your ex-spouse won't make timely payments, or wish that you could get your ex to try to refinance.  Therefore, it is a good idea for both spouses to discuss their concerns about the mortgage with their own attorneys and set goals about what each would like to happen. This can be discussed in mediation as well.


Family Law, Business Law, Real Estate Law, Probate
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Monday, September 26, 2016

Can I Travel With My Children While Getting a Divorce?


If you are getting a divorce in Texas and you have children, you may want to take a trip with your children during the time the divorce is pending.

Are you allowed to do it?

Well, the first question to ask yourself is whether you are under any court orders.  If so, then check them to see if you have any travel restrictions.   Be aware that just because you haven't actually been to court doesn't mean that you aren't under any court orders.  You may have an agreement that has been reached between you and your spouse and that agreement may have been filed with the court and become a Court Order. This can happen with mediation or without it.

(Also, speaking of "Court Orders", in Texas "Standing Orders" apply to any divorce filed, so be aware of these.)

If you have orders  in place, read them and follow them. If you have made an agreement with your spouse, follow that.  But let's say that there is nothing decided yet about travel, what then?

The next thing to consider is whether your travel with your child would be interfering with your spouse's visitation time. If so, you'll need to work out that issue through your attorneys, or, if you don't have attorneys, with your spouse.

Even if you don't have to, in many cases it is advisable to discuss the travel in advance with your spouse (even if you have to do it through your attorneys) in order to avoid misunderstanding or panic. Of course, each case is different, so just be sure to think everything through and discuss any doubts with your attorney.

If all is clear and you see no reason why you shouldn't go, just make sure that you come back, and come back on time.

Be aware that international travel is a bit different. For information on international travel see the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol website.  There are U.S. and international laws in effect that must be followed.  If you wish to travel internationally during your divorce, make sure that you are abiding by all requirements and you are advised to discuss this with your attorney in advance as well.


Family Law, Business Law, Real Estate Law, Probate
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, September 19, 2016

Have Children from a Prior Relationship and You Don't Have a Will? Why That's a Bad Idea....


If you are currently married and have children from a prior relationship or marriage, you should have an estate plan! 


Why?

If you were to die, without a will, Texas law will decide who gets what, and in what amount. And that can be bad.

Understand this: if you have children from outside your current marriage, and you die without a will, your children from your prior relationship/marriage will inherit certain amounts of your property. That is Texas law.

But they may not inherit exactly what you would want them to inherit.

And all of this could come as a surprise to your current spouse. It may also create a hardship for your current spouse, who is relying on the property you own to make ends meet after you are gone.

Specifically,  your children from a prior relationship will inherit 2/3 of your separate personal property, your 1/2 interest in the community property you own with your current spouse, and the "remainder" of your real estate. (as a practical matter this means that your spouse gets to use your home for his/her life but then it goes to your children. It also means that your children will inherit some of the "community property" which your spouse may think of as his/hers).

If you have a family who knows each other well and has each other's best interests at heart, this may not be a problem.  BUT, if they have an uncertain or outright antagonistic situation, this could be a huge problem.    If your children are adults, there could be hurt feelings or even worse, a court battle which eats up the assets.  If your children are minors, then you will leave your current spouse in an uncomfortable position of having to deal with your ex to defend property which your current spouse already considers to be his/hers while grieving your loss. If your ex is still bitter over your breakup that is even worse!

Planning a will in a step-family situation is often an emotionally-charged issue which is avoided or met with dread.

It requires careful balancing between different interests.  How much, if anything, should your children receive? How much does your spouse need? Should all of your separate property go to your children? Are there any pieces of property which are part of a family legacy that your children should have?  Is some of your property technically "separate" but without the help of your current spouse it would not have the value it has today?

If there is a family business involved and various family members are relying on the income it can be even more tricky and require some additional business planning as well.

An experienced attorney who understands all of these issues can help guide you on a clear path.  And that's good!


Family Law, Wills, Powers of Attorney & Estate Planning

"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, September 12, 2016

Financial Recovery from Catastropic Illness



If you or a loved one has had a major illness, you may find that you have a confusing array of medical bills left after the illness. Getting the paperwork organized so that you know what you are dealing with will help reduce the stress.


Here are steps that you should take to regain control:


  1. Organize your bills.  Get control of the paperwork by grouping the bills in a way that makes sense to you, for instance, by in-patient facility, health care provider or by month.  Get folders and label them so that you can easily see what is in each folder.
  2. Organize your payment information.  Gather information from your checkbook, cash receipts, or credit cards so that you will know what has been paid, to whom, and when.
  3. If you have insurance, collect your EOB (explanation of benefits) documents and put them in order. You can either put them in date order or put each document next to the medical bills that correspond to them.
  4. Audit the medical bills.  Check to be certain that you have been given credit for any payments made. Make sure that the health care provider has given you credit for any participating plan reductions ("negotiated or allowed" amount of fee).  Do this by comparing your payment information and EOBs to the medical bills. 
  5. Ask for an itemized bill.  Audit the bill for accurate dates or double charges, and ask questions if you don’t understand a charge. Remember, unintentional mistakes are made, even with computer-generated bills.
  6. If you have insurance, make sure that you are getting the benefits that your plan entitles you to have. For instance, if you see that you have been billed a higher co-payment for being “out of network”, but you don’t believe that is accurate, call and speak with your insurance company.  In some situations, you may be able to have the charges reconsidered and paid at a higher rater (for instance, if it was an emergency or if there was not an in-network provider available).
  7. Talk with the hospital or provider to inform them of the “big picture”.  If you have several thousand dollars in medical bills because of a catastrophic illness you may be able to receive a reduction in the bills or a payment plan.  Some facilities have specific guidelines for situations in which there has been a catastrophic illness, or there is little or no insurance coverage.  Telling your story and sending small regular payments may prevent your bills from going to a collection company.
  8. If you are the surviving spouse and are looking at “last illness” bills, you may want to have a legal consult. A probate attorney can assist you by helping you plan how to pay the bills and manage the funds of the estate.
  9. Seek professional assistance from an attorney if you need help with understanding your insurance contract, debtor/creditor law, formulating a plan for paying your debts or other legal aspects of your situation.
Editor's Note: this post was originally published on December 29, 2010 and has been updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness. 

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Tuesday, September 6, 2016

What to Bring to a Will Consultation


So you are finally going to get your will done. This has probably been something that has been placed on your "to do" list and moved to the bottom time and time again.

Once you have finally decided to proceed, you've called the estate planning lawyer and made the appointment.  Now, what to bring to the appointment?

  1. Option One: nothing but a notepad.   If you have never had a will before, only want to chat and get advice and have a general idea of what you want to do, you can bring "nothing" to the appointment. 
  2. Your old will.   If you have a current will and think it would be helpful for the lawyer to see it, bring it (or a copy of it) to the meeting.
  3. Your notes/list of what you want to accomplish, and any questions you have. This may help you stay focused during the meeting, but it is not necessary to create this list for the lawyer.
  4. Concerns, if any  If you are heavily in debt, unsure about whether or not something is titled in your name, worried about an heir who has a substance abuse problem, etc., then bring the details of your concerns. 
After the appointment, your lawyer will give you specific forms to fill out.   You will be asked to provide; the full names of your spouse and children, the names of your beneficiaries, executor(s), and trustee(s).  You will be asked about the items and assets in your estate.  You will be asked to specify in writing "who gets what".  Take care in filling out these forms because they will be used to draft your will.  

It is perfectly fine to arrive at the law office with no clear idea of how you want your will to read. The consultation appointment is meant to help you make decisions, and help make your planning easier. 


Family Law, Wills, Powers of Attorney & Estate Planning

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Monday, August 29, 2016

I'm too Young to have a will.... aren't I?



Most people in their twenties do not consider getting a will to be high on their list of priorities.   That is understandable.  However, there are many reasons why you should consider having a will.  Here are the most important ones:


  • You have a child (whether the child lives with you or not)
  • You have any assets (even a bank account, car, or personal items)
  • You have debts and they could be negotiated (naming an "Executor" in your will means that this person may get court authority to negotiate with creditors and preserve assets for family)
  • You want someone other than your family to inherit from you (Been living with your significant other for years with no "legal" status to your relationship? He or she may get nothing and have to fight your biological family for what you purchased together)
  • You don't want your money to go to the state's Unclaimed Property Division because no one has legal authority to get it.
  • Your situation may change (sure, you may have more debts than assets now, but what if that changes in a few years?)
  • You have rights in any part of a business or joint venture (even a side-business with assets and customers)
  • You've worked hard to get where you are and want to have the ability to make your wishes known. 
You may assume that if you were to die, that your assets would automatically go to certain people. But, it may not be that easy. Having a will allows a judge to appoint your Executor to gather the assets and debts.  There is a court order and the banks and creditors have to respect and follow it, which means that they need to release information and funds when properly requested to do so. 

If you have debts, and debts > assets, it is true that your loved ones may decide not to probate your will, and may just let things alone. But, not always.  

A consultation with a wills attorney can give you the information that you need to decide how to deal with your own particular situation. 



"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference."
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READ THIS- Before you Co-sign that Loan or Lease!


Someone that you care about has asked you to co-sign for him.   He assures you that he has the ability to pay for that car, that home, or that lease. You know that he is currently working, and you trust him. Should you do it?

That depends.  Here are the things that you need to think about before you decide:

  1. If he stops making his payments for whatever reason (illness, job layoff, personal problems, injury, or irresponsibility), the creditor is going to come to YOU to make the monthly payment. If you co-sign a lease and there is a default, you can be sued if you don't pay through to the end of the lease term. 
  2. If you have to, can you afford to make his monthly payment and still meet all of your other responsibilities on time? If so, for how long? 
  3. Can you afford to have this financial responsibility show up on your credit report? Will it make you appear "overextended"?  Will it keep you from getting a loan for something that you need in the future? 
  4. If the worst happens and he is unable to make his payments is the property sale-able? How long do you think it would take to sell it and will you be willing to tell your friend that he must give it up?  
  5. Have you thought through all the possible implications and considered anyone else in your life who could be significantly affected by this decision if things were to "go wrong" (your spouse, children, business partner)?
Co-signing a loan or lease is not something that should be taken lightly.  The unexpected does happen.   Be sure to go into the situation with your eyes wide open.

Also beware of any situation in which someone promises you something of value for co-signing the loan or promises you something "once they get the money".  This is a red flag. 


"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

LEGAL 911--- WHEN should you Contact a Lawyer?

So, you have a legal problem... maybe.  But maybe you can handle it yourself. Or maybe it won't get too serious... or maybe it will go away.

How do you decide when to see an attorney?

Of course, the decision varies from person to person and case to case. But here are some situations that should cause you to seek help right away.


  1.  You have been served with a lawsuit.   If you have been served, don't wait around. You will need to answer that lawsuit by a certain day and time, in the proper way, or you could lose the case.  The WHEN and WHERE of how to answer depends...is it in State District Court, County Court, Justice Court (Small claims) , or Federal Court? How did you receive service?  In some cases, you can even be served by mail. 
  2. You have received an administrative complaint.  Whether it is local, state or federal government, administrative complaints still should not be ignored. (Examples; homeowner's association, IRS, Workforce Commission, your local city government, a professional regulatory board in your state.)
  3. You are aware of a serious pending issue that can affect your job or ability to make a living.  These are not lawsuits yet but can quickly get out of hand.  (Example, you get reputable information that you are being accused of some type of workplace misconduct; you get a letter that you are being unfairly ousted from a professional group that provides you with most of your clients; you find out that your employee is copying your confidential files and client lists and setting up her own business.)
  4. There is an immediate threat to an individual's health or safety, or a threat of property destruction.   This is something that is on the verge of becoming a full-out emergency.   At any time, it could go either way.  (Examples:  Your neighbor is flooding your property by mishandling his landscaping and water supply; child protective services is investigating your ex-spouse regarding the welfare of your child;  your child is visiting your ex-spouse across the state and you find out that she is being left alone without supervision; someone is threatening you with bodily harm). 
  5. You have been asked to sign important documents and you don't fully understand the documents or the situation.   If you don't understand it, don't sign it until you do.  This is especially important when it relates to long-term contracts, contracts for the purchase or sale of real estate, and any document that asks you to sign away your rights or commit to providing your money or time.  (Examples: Termination of your Parental Rights, Settlement for a sum of money in exchange for not pursing a legal claim, contract for purchase or sale of a business, signing of a severance package from your employer.)
Don't wait until it is too late.  Words that you do not want to hear your attorney say.... "I'm sorry. If you had only come to me sooner..." 


Civil Attorneys, Family Law, Business Law, Real Estate Law, Probate
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Divorce Cases that Cross State Lines


Two people are about to divorce.   Where do they file the case? Well, that's easy, in the county where they both are living, right? 

Well, not always....

When two people are married, and living together and have been living there for awhile, yes, they do file in that county.   But some cases are not so clear.  

Consider:
  1. He lives in one county, she lives in another. This has been going on for over 6 months. 
  2. He lives in one state, she lives in another. 
  3. The couple just moved from one state to another and have not established residency. 
  4. One or both spouses regularly live in two locations, and it is unclear which is the primary residence. 
  5. The divorce case was already filed, and is now on hold, in another county or state. Now they want to proceed.
  6. They live in two separate locations and each one files independently of the other. Which case proceeds to conclusion?
These cases are not as rare as you would think.  And, depending on the facts of the case, there may be more than one option on where to file the divorce. 

In the least complicated of the above cases, it may be just a matter of timing. Assuming that each of the two people filed and each of them chose a correct location, then it may just be a matter of who filed first.   Other cases require legal research, and possibly a court hearing to decide. In the most complicated cases, two judges from two different courts may need to speak with each other at length to make the legal determination. 

If you are in a complicated situation and are divorcing, or considering divorce, or your divorce was filed and is on "hold" somewhere other than where you now live, contact a family law attorney to help you understand what your options are and how to proceed.  


"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Monday, August 8, 2016

Texas Employers, Here are Some FREE Resources to Help you Run your Business!




The Texas Workforce Commission's Office of the Commissioner Representing Employers ("TWC") has an employer hotline to answer employer questions about basic legal issues related to hiring, work-separation, and other employment and post-employment issues.  The number is 800-832-9394.

There are also free resources available online.  Check out the publication, "Especially for Texas Employers" that is available. This manual contains tips, information about the law, policy and procedure, and forms for use by Texas Employers.  You can receive the print version by attending one of the seminars put on for Texas Employers in various locations around the state. There is a charge for attending the day-long seminar.

Would you like to have help understanding salary vs. hourly pay?  How about understanding how Unemployment claims work?   Would you like to know if the wages/salary that your company pays is competitive for your industry and geographic location? How about what to do if you are the subject of an audit?   What if someone files a workers compensation claim? All of this information and more is available from the TWC.

These important resources can help you create or define your company's procedures.  When your employees know exactly what is expected of them morale will be higher and goals can be met.

Having an employee who under performs is one of the most frustrating experiences that an employer can have.  Even worse is having an employee who flouts procedure and policy and dares you to discharge them. This can become a nightmare when it is interfering with customer satisfaction and the employer isn't sure of the best way to handle the situation.  The TWC's Commission Representing Employers is there to help.

If you currently have business issues or are confused, consider reviewing the information available. This information can help you understand the law.  Even if you have a business attorney helping you with a specific difficult situation it is always a good idea to improve your overall procedures and prevent future problems.

Kalish Law Office - The Woodlands, Texas 
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.