Saturday, February 25, 2017

Denied Access to Your Child during Your Periods of Possession?

Being denied access to your children can be very discouraging.  

The hope that things will soon get better (and the fear of making things worse) may keep you from taking any action at all.  But if you are not keeping accurate records of the denials, then this important evidence can be lost.

If you are being denied access to your children then it is very important that you keep accurate records. Here is what you should do:
  1. Write down the date and times that you were denied visitation during your period of possession. 
  2. Communicate with your ex in writing (text or email is good) so that you can have evidence of your attempts to have visitation and possession.
  3. Be as involved as you can in your child's life.  Attend school activities and stay in touch with your child. Know the names of your child's teachers and friends. 
  4. Visit an attorney for a consult about your rights and bring evidence with you of the times of violations. Keep in mind your ex will have to have had a number of violations in order for you to have a case that can be filed with the court. 
We often see clients who have a good case and we are very sympathetic to them, but the evidence is missing.   Real evidence is always better that two people telling two different stories.  Memories get hazy over time and it may take awhile to resolve a case or get a hearing date.   Having the exact times and dates of the denials is the best way to tell your story.

- By Paralegal Myrna Ramirez with Attorney Laura Kalish

Family Law, Business Law, Real Estate Law, Probate
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Alternatives to Guardianship

Do you suspect that you may need to seek a guardianship for a loved one?  There may be an alternative....

If your loved one is becoming unable to take care of his or her own affairs, you may be thinking about seeking a formal guardianship.  

If your loved one is still competent to make decisions now (even if you suspect that that may not be the case in the future), you may need to act right away.   For instance, a diagnosis of dementia may be received early enough to allow your loved one to be an active part of the discussion and decision-making process.  If so, s/he can plan for the future, signing specific documentation that allows you to help manage his/her affairs now and in the future.  S/he can even designate a guardian for later on, in the event that it becomes necessary. 

There are also ways to use estate planning to help. This is helpful not only in cases of dementia and decreasing capacity, but also in cases where a person is mentally challenged or disabled (whether due to injury, illness, or developmental disabilities).  One or more Trusts may be set up. The purpose of the Trust(s) can be to preserve assets, regulate spending, clearly define legal responsibility of the Trustee and engage in responsible tax planning. 

A formal guardianship, when needed, is a welcome solution. However, if it there are other ways to accomplish the same goals, they are worth investigating.   A formal guardianship includes court administration and court authority over it, which means that the Guardian will be subject to requirements such as filing reports with the court and requesting court approval for spending certain amounts.  Finding the best and least cumbersome alternative is encouraged by judges, while keeping the best interests of the person in mind.   

If a guardianship looks like it may be a possibility, don't wait to find out all of the options. Knowledge is power and planning before there is a crisis is key. 

Wills, Probate & Family Law
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Saturday, February 11, 2017

How to Clean out and Care for a Home After Someone Passes

When a loved one passes away, cleaning out the house can feel like an impossible task. Not only is it difficult to know what needs to be done in a practical sense but it is emotionally devastating. 

Keeping organized is key.   There are legal, practical and humanitarian considerations. First of all, make sure that any pets are fed, watered and taken care of right away.  This is primary.  Secondly, make sure the premises are secure because an empty home can be a target for thieves, especially during the funeral, so ask neighbors to watch the house or ask the police to drive by and keep watch on the property.

Next, locate the deceased person's Last Will and Testament, if there is one. If there are multiple versions or multiple copies, keep them all together.  This can be especially important because there may be funeral instructions contained in the will.

Next, locate & secure important identity papers (social security card, driver's license, insurance cards). You may need these for the planning session at the funeral home.

Then, locate the current bills to find those that need to be taken care of right away. (mortgage payment, utility bills, premises insurance). If there is a Will, who is the named Executor?  If the Will is probated, it will ultimately be the Executor's job to pay bills of the estate and secure the property. If there is not a will, Texas law will determine who inherits.  In some cases, a probate action may need to be filed right away. If you haven't already done so, now is the time to get a legal consultation with a probate attorney to decide the best way to handle the estate.

It is important to make sure the property is secure, clean and safe. If it is unoccupied, arrange for someone to check on the property and make sure the property insurance stays in effect. Keep the place clean and maintained (trash take out, trash pick up, yard work done, gates closed, mail and newspapers picked up) so that it is not a target for thieves or a health hazard.

There are many reliable services available that can help you have an estate sale, clean out the home, recycle, or discard items.   Some of these services specialize in taking care of deceased person's property and can help from day one. Others services may take care of finishing the cleaning process later, once you have distributed, donated, discarded and recycled most of the contents.

*IMPORTANT* If there is a Will, it is important to respect your loved one's wishes. If there is no Will, the law will determine who inherits.    It is not appropriate for people to go into the home and begin randomly removing things (other than taking care of pets). Have a legal consult to determine the right thing to do.  Also keep in mind that the estate may be sued for any accidents that happen when others are driving your loved one's vehicle. So, it is safest to park and lock it.

Family Law, Business Law, Real Estate Law, Probate
"Passionate, Professional & Personal. We Make the Difference." For Over Thirty Years.
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Saturday, February 4, 2017

What are Indemnification Provisions?

Indemnification provisions are present in many types of contracts- service agreements, leases, insurance contracts, and employment agreements - to name just a few.

To "indemnify" someone is to promise to pay the cost of future damage, loss, or injury and therefore to protect them from future monetary damage.

Indemnity provisions are common, "boilerplate" language. This leads many careful, educated people to just blow right past the language, giving it little or no thought- until a problem occurs.

Indemnity clauses are inserted by the party who drafts the contract, and often they are written so that they benefit that party extensively and exclusively.

If you are asked to sign any type of contract indemnifying someone else, look it over carefully. Ask yourself if this is a fair and equitable request.  Are you indemnifying the other party against things that may occur due to your own behavior, or someone else's? If it is not your own behavior, how much control (if any) do you really have over the event, person or company that you are responsible to control? Is there a way to make the indemnity "mutual" so that you can be protected as well?

Mutual indemnity clauses are usually the most "fair". These clauses basically say "I'll hold you harmless for my own mistake or error and you do the same for me!"

Keep in mind that although the language is often presented as "boilerplate" ("oh, we have that provision in all our contracts- don't worry about it") or "non-negotiable" (if you don't sign it, we have nothing more to say to you), that may not be true.  You may be able to negotiate the wording in those provisions.  

If you do choose to indemnify someone, make sure that you understand exactly what you are getting into, what could happen in the future, and what the financial risks are to you and your business.  As always, don't sign anything that you don't understand and make a good investment by seeking legal advice when warranted. A lawyer can tell you about all potential risks and benefits so that you are going into the situation with knowledge.

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