Category Archives: Contracts

A Moment of Gratitude

Do you spend more time with your coworkers than you do with your family?  If you do, have OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAyou ever stopped to consider why that may be the case?  The West is a culture preoccupied with work. While I love the fast-paced nature of the legal field, it’s crucial that I take the time to reflect on why I do what I do every day at the office. With Thanksgiving right around the corner, here are just a few things I am thankful for:

1. I’m thankful for my clients.

I’ve said it before, and I will reiterate it here: I’ve got the best clients in Texas. I learn so much from them, and they honor me by trusting me with their lives every day. Whether I am helping them survive a bitter divorce or organizing their business for the start of a new venture, each client challenges me to provide better service and value than I did the day before. That’s a tremendous blessing that I do not take for granted.

2. I’m thankful for my staff.

This year I hired a legal assistant named Tim, and my productivity soared. He keeps me on task, helps me with administrative tasks so that I can focus on legal work, and most importantly he keeps me in communication with clients when I’m in court or otherwise unavailable to talk to them directly. Tim has allowed me to be more efficient and responsive to my clients, and for that I am incredibly grateful.

3. I’m thankful for my family and friends.

If it weren’t for my friends and family, my life would be totally out of balance. Being in a service-based industry is difficult because other people’s life problems become my problems. It’s very easy to get overwhelmed by all of the very serious concerns that clients bring to my office. It’s also easy to take on more work than I can handle because it’s much harder to say no to a potential case when my cup is overflowing with obligations.  Today I vow to prioritize my family over my potential profit. If I can’t offer the best service at the time due to having a full case load or simply not being able to handle the problem before me, it is my ethical obligation to refer that potential client to another professional who can.  I’ll no longer value my professional life over my personal life because integrity goes a long way, and I took an oath to behave ethically and professionally at all times.

I hope and pray that you are taking time off from work to spend time with the people who really matter in your life. I know I will, and I can’t wait to kick back with my friends and family to recharge before coming back to work to serve more clients and help more people along the way.

 

 

New Year New Beginnings

nyearsbaby2As we enter into a new year, it’s always tempting to think about how things will be different this year. Almost everyone I know has some version of a New Years resolution (including me), but on the eve of one of my very good friends getting married, I wanted to share a few thoughts on new beginnings.

1. Welcoming A New Addition to the Family

If you’re the proud parent of a newborn, it’s a good idea to start planning for your child’s future. If you do not have a last will & testament, now is the time to write one. It is important that you designate who you want to act as the guardian of your child in the event you and your spouse pass away before your child reaches the age of eighteen. It’s also not too early to  begin saving for your child’s education. Talk to a financial planner about what steps to take to secure your child’s future as soon as possible,

2. Entering a New Phase in Life: Marriage/Divorce

Tying the knot is an exiting time for any couple. Combining your finances and creating a life with another person requires careful planning and open communication. Although it sounds unromantic, a premarital agreement will clearly outline the expectations that each of you have about how you will handle your income and what arrangements will be made in the event you do not make it as a couple. Even if you decide against a premarital agreement, open discussions about these issues will give you insight into your partner’s point of view. The more you know about each other, the better prepared you will be for married life.

Similarly,  if your divorce has been recently finalized, you are entering a new phase in your life. If you have life insurance policies naming your ex as a beneficiary, you want to be sure to submit the proper documentation to change your beneficiary designations.  If you were awarded the family home in your divorce decree, you also want to be sure that your former spouse has executed a special warranty deed to transfer his or her share of interest in the home to you.

3. Starting a business

New businesses often start at the beginning of a new year, and entrepreneurs tend to dive into their new ventures head first. Lack of proper documentation is a trap for the unwary. If you are a sole proprietor, you must decide if you want to incorporate your business or simply file a DBA at the outset of your company. Partners in a partnership are doing themselves no favors if they do not have partnership agreements in place. Taking the time to speak to an attorney before your operation runs into any issues is the best step you can take to protect yourself from potential liability and start your business off right.

Should I Hire a Lawyer or Handle It on My Own?

ttronslien-8953 (1)I get asked this question in different ways from time to time, so I thought it would make a great blog topic. Is it a good idea to hire a lawyer or go pro se?

In most instances, we have no problem going to a professional for services. Car making a funny noise? Go to a mechanic. Need a haircut? See a barber. Broke your key in the door? Call a locksmith. But when it comes to legal services, people with absolutely no legal experience or training strangely believe that they can do it themselves, get the outcome they want, and successfully represent themselves in court. This is almost always a terrible mistake.

“I have the right to represent myself in a court of law”, you may be thinking. This is true. You absolutely do, but just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Abraham Lincoln famously said, “He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” Like me, President Lincoln was an attorney, and he had a great reason for making this remark: the law has its own set of rules, guidelines, and vocabulary. There is a reason lawyers have to attend several years of school and pass their state bar examinations. Competence in the courtroom comes with years of experience handling legal problems again and again. A person without this background is simply not prepared to properly represent him or herself.

Typically when a person goes pro se, that person quickly realizes they’re in over their head and hires an attorney. When I meet someone who has filed their own lawsuit, I look at what they have done on their own and determine what, if anything, I can do to fix their mistakes and protect their interests. This often results in my new client paying more than he or she otherwise would if they had simply come to me with their legal problem from the very beginning. The additional work needed to pick up where a pro se litigant has left off usually results in me having to spend more time on their case, and therefore a higher bill. Sometimes they’ve waited too long to seek my help, and I can’t do anything for them because the case is too far gone.

Even a skilled lawyer who represents himself is at a disadvantage. We are humans, and our emotions tend to cloud our judgment when it is our own personal interests at stake. I take my own advice in this regard. When my grandmother passed away, I advised my mother (her executor) to hire an attorney. I did not want to bungle my grandmother’s estate. I had recently graduated from law school and had not yet learned how to handle probate matters. I wouldn’t pull my own tooth if I had a toothache, and something tells me you wouldn’t either. The same principle applies to the law: when in doubt, hire a professional.

10 Things I’m Thankful for in 2014

It’s that time of the year again! The leaves have changed colors. Folks have started wearing 2013_11_11_7382-1morguejackets and scarves. Fall (also known as autumn) is my favorite time of year. It’s the only season with two names, and Thanksgiving (also my favorite) is the most low-pressure, feel-good holiday there is. This is a time for reflection, and once a year everyone is reminded to count their blessings. With that in mind, I’d like to offer my thoughts on what I’m thankful for this year.

1. Meeting awesome people

This year has been particularly good for me because of some of the wonderful people I was fortunate to meet. In June, when I was sitting at a bar having brunch at Katie’s Diner in New Orleans, Louisiana, I was introduced to someone who is now one of my closest friends. She later moved to Texas and is now my office administrator.

In October I had the pleasure of meeting Dave Lorenzo at one of his LegalMax seminars in Miami, Florida. I also met Brian Tannebaum, a former Abovethelaw.com contributor and Florida criminal defense attorney. Both of these guys were personable and dynamic. They gave me a lot to think about in terms of how I run my business and what I need to do to make it even better.

2. Fantastic clients

My firm wouldn’t exist without my clients, and every day I’m thankful for each and every one of them. My clients are some of the most kind, intelligent folks I’ve encountered, and I feel honored that they have entrusted their divorces, lawsuits, estate plans, and oil & gas royalty claims to me and my staff. I look forward to putting together a small “thank you” gift for them around Christmas time.

3. Learning a few life lessons

This year I learned that I cannot be everything to everyone. I also learned that it’s terribly important to set realistic expectations for my clients and myself. Just because I know how a legal process works doesn’t mean my client does. It’s my job to educate and advise every client I have, and I believe I’ve had a chance to do that more this year than I have in the past.

4. Owning a thriving business

Before I started my practice, I was a pawn in the corporate wheel. Although I was highly paid, I was not happy with the work I was doing and didn’t feel like I was making a difference in the world. Thanks to that experience, I greatly value the freedom and satisfaction I get from owning my own business. Was it difficult getting used to the ebb and flow of small business ownership? Yes. Did it take me some time to get used to not having a steady paycheck or paid sick and vacation days? Yes. Has it all led to me being happier and more fulfilled in my career? Absolutely. Now that I am my own boss, I can’t imagine going back to work for anyone else. I’ve tried to do that a few times since starting my firm, and the results were disastrous. Every day I’m thankful that I only answer to my clients (and occasionally to a judge).

5. Writing my first book

At the end of last year I began writing a do-it-yourself divorce guide for pro-se litigants. About two weeks ago I completed it. It is my first book, and I am incredibly proud of it. My hope is that this book really helps people who cannot afford to retain an attorney. I spent a great deal of time and effort to write something user friendly, free of legalese, and made it accessible to every day people who simply want to move on with their lives. I’m currently in the process of building a dedicated website for the e-book and can’t wait to make it available for sale in 2015.

6. Balancing work with life

This year I’ve been blessed to do a fair amount of travel. I went to New Orleans, Miami, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Austin this year. I’ve been able to spend time with my friends and family while keeping up with my day to day responsibilities. I had about  3 weeks of vacation this year, and I hope to keep up the trend of taking time off to recharge my batteries. I’m no good to anyone when I’m stressed and burnt out from working too much, so it’s a blessing that I’ve been able to strike a balance between my career and my other interests.

7. Helping clients get fantastic settlements 

One of the highlights of my career is being able to help people get compensated for their damages. When a company has to pony up dough because I have proof of their legal liability to one of my clients, there is no greater feeling in the world. Being the under dog who takes on behemoths is a challenging task, but when it pays off, my clients are happy, and I feel good. While I’m usually unable to disclose exactly how much I’ve gotten from whom, my clients know what kind of results I’ve gotten for them, and that’s all the validation I need.

8. Widespread legal changes 

This year the number of states with legalized gay marriage rose to 35. The number of states with legalized access to marijuana rose to 23 (plus the District of Colombia). It seems like America is slowly but surely moving towards progress in terms of civil liberties and civil rights, and I am very grateful for these developments. Unfair laws have prohibited people from exercising their rights to live their lives as they choose, and these laws are finally being challenged in the courts and legislatures. Texas isn’t in either category just yet (in terms of legalized gay marriage or marijuana), but change is on the way. It’s just a matter of time.

9.  Overall health, wealth, and happiness

2014 was a great year for me and my law firm. I only had to take one sick day this year, and thankfully I was able to employ an office administrator to help me communicate better with current and former clients. This year has been tremendous in terms of growth, both personal and financial. I’m looking forward to what 2015 has in store.

If you haven’t yet, take some time to write down a few things you are thankful for. An attitude of gratitude is a good thing to have all year. Until next time, thanks for reading, and if you ever have questions about me and what I do, please feel free to call (713) 574-8626.

Are You Proactive or Reactive?

Hey youMost of the time I meet people in the middle of a crisis. Sometimes a loved one has recently died. Other times my clients have pending criminal charges or lawsuits filed against them. In these instances, my clients are reacting to the slings and arrows of life. Crises happen and are sometimes unavoidable. However, there are times when you can prepare for what lies ahead. Being prepared for the future and planning for some of the inevitable challenges that we all face is how I define being proactive. Instead of reacting to your circumstances, you are creating options and opportunities for yourself.

  • When a person comes to me to write a last will & testament, I know my new client is proactive.
  • When a person comes to me to ask questions about a contract before signing it, I know he or she is proactive.
  • When the owner of a start-up comes to me to incorporate his new business, I know he is proactive.
  • When a person inquires about power of attorney documents so that their affairs are handled before they go overseas for military service or business, I know that person is proactive.
  • Any time I am asked to actively market oil, gas, and minerals for mineral owners seeking a sale or a lease of their property, I know my clients are proactive.

You may be wondering, “why does this matter?” It matters because being proactive puts my client in the driver’s seat of his or her life. I have a greater ability to assist the proactive client because I know that person is looking ahead to what could be instead of instinctively reacting to their current circumstances.  This changes the dynamic of our relationship and allows me to make suggestions, ask questions about their concerns, and generally be of more value.

I appreciate all of my clients, but frankly, the proactive clients are my favorite. They have emergencies. Everyone does, but more often than not, they are better prepared when trouble comes their way because they sought my counsel before something has even gone wrong in the first place. Don’t wait for the other shoe to drop. Contact a lawyer to discuss your future, your business, the birth of your first child, you pending nuptials, or any other major life change you may be facing. You might be surprised what you learn, and how I may be of use to you in the long run.

To schedule a consultation with an attorney who wants to build a lifetime relationship with you, call (713) 574-8626.

Beware of the Straw Man Conspiracy Theory

file000704919536Recently, the American Bar Association Journal published an article about “sovereign citizens.” You can read it here. It goes into great detail about a group of people who consider themselves to be outside of the laws of the United States because, in their view, the United States of America was taken over by corporate interests once it stopped relying on the gold standard for its currency and began having its money issued by the Federal Reserve.

A friend of mine knows someone who is personally involved in this fringe movement, and I had a chance to speak to him about the concept of the straw man. The straw man is based on the idea that after the U.S. abandoned the gold standard, its leaders set up Treasury accounts in the name of each baby born in the United States, permitting the government to borrow against that person’s future labor. Each account is supposedly organized as a trust or a corporation. If you can legally separate this “strawman” account from your person, the theory goes, you can use the money for your own purposes and put yourself outside the reach of the law.

I asked this gentleman about this line of beliefs, and he told me not to call it a theory and went on to say that the history that we know of the United States is false. We have all been misled into believing we live in a representative democracy. Putting the political underpinning aside, this line of thinking concerns me. The more I learn about this fringe group calling themselves sovereigns or “free men on the land,” the more I am convinced that almost any idea can be used for good or for evil. These people have the right to hold any beliefs they wish, but to file false tax returns to harass prosecutors, judges, and other people is a step too far. Inciting violence against police and other members of law enforcement is wholly unacceptable and antithetical to the creed of people who claim to be fighting “tyranny.”

On this basis, people have filed numerous lawsuits, delayed the adjudication of existing lawsuits, and generally spread havoc throughout the United States judiciary. Enough is enough. This set of ideas needs to be debunked and demystified immediately. Ignoring this growing fringe belief is to sit idly by while a group of American citizens completely undermine the rule of law. Interestingly enough, these people who claim the U.S. dollar is worthless and illegitimate, take payment in U.S. dollars for their tracts and lessons on their philosophy. Under the guise of political philosophy and freedom of speech (ironically protected freedoms under the U.S. Constitution), these folks have hatched tax evasion scams and ponzi schemes that have resulted in hundreds of arrests nationwide.

I did my duty to tell my new acquaintance that he was going down a bad road with people he should not trust, but the battle to discredit these folks has only begun. The message has spread to Canada where Candaian judges are now grappling with these same issues. America ought not be the place where specious ideas take root without any public discourse or backlash. In short, friends don’t let friends believe nonsense.

For more information about who I am and what I do, feel free to click around this website and explore. To schedule a consultation with me, please call (713) 574-8626. I look forward to hearing from you!

Are you owed royalty payments for Oil and Gas?

If you own property in Texas that has a rich oil deposit, and you have leased out the rights to that deposit to a third party, then you are entitled to receive oil and gas royalties in Texas for the entire duration of your lease. If your royalty payments are overdue, or you are not receiving payments on time, you can consider enlisting the services of an oil and gas royalties lawyer in Texas. The Law Office of Kimberly D. Moss specializes in cases of oil and gas royalties in Texas, and can help you resolve issues regarding royalty payments for oil and gas deposits in your property.

The first step towards getting paid for the natural resources of the land that you own is to be well informed about the legalities regarding oil and gas leases, and also about your rights and entitlements regarding these matters. These constitute reasonable diligence by landowner. Once you are well versed with these, the next step is to hire a Houston oil and gas plaintiff lawyer to work out the steps that need to be taken to bring you your overdue royalty payments for oil and gas. Such experienced professionals help determine whether you are adequately compensated in form of royalty payouts.

The Law Office of Kimberly D. Moss is the right place to come to in these cases. Having handled a large number of oil and gas royalty cases in the past, we are in a great position to provide you with a great lawyer for oil and gas royalty payments and get the job done for you. Our lawyers are well versed with the ins and outs of oil and gas lease deals, and can negotiate with the involved third-party to make sure that all your overdue lease payments are duly cleared with immediate effect and all subsequent payments are made on time. With The Law Office of Kimberly D. Moss on your side, you will never have royalty payments for oil and gas overdue again.

Small Business Owners: 3 Things Your Lawyer Needs to Know

Recently this office has been bombarded with questions from harried business owners. They range in topic and severity. “Can I finance the sale of my store?”  “Should I agree to this business proposal?” “What’s the best way to protect myself from a lawsuit if any employee gets injured?” These are all excellent questions to ask a lawyer, but they shouldn’t be the starting point for your discussion.

To effectively assist my business clients, a seasoned attorney needs essential information to get started. Before you schedule your initial consultation to address your business needs, consider these five factors and let your attorney into your world. The more we know, the more we can do to help you.

1. What kind of business are you?

Are you a small business with one employee? Do you run a goods or service based operation? The nature of your business is very important because it determines what areas of the law that may be applicable to you. Without knowing what exactly it is you do, I will have a much more difficult time getting the results you want, and that won’t be entirely my fault. Attorneys and clients have to establish a rapport, a real relationship, in order to be effective. The more comfortable you get with me and the more I find out about you, your business, and your goals, the better.

2. Who manages your business finances?

This is an important one. I’ve had business owners contact me in hopes that I’d negotiate or draft an agreement to buy or sell a business without telling me anything about their organizational structure. If you’re not the CFO, accountant, attorney-in-fact, or any kind of agent with the ability to act with authority, you should get me in touch that person and allow us to discuss the terms of your agreement. More often than not, the business owner is the person I should be talking to, but not always. To prevent problems later, I always ask. There’s nothing worse than executing an agreement and finding out that the person who signed it had no authority to do so. That’s what lawsuits are made of. Not good.

3. What Do You Want to Happen?

Sometimes people come to me seeking general advice or counsel on the direction of their business, which is fine. These dialogues are often very productive; however, if you don’t have a goal in mind, we have nowhere to start. The decision to expand, re-brand, franchise, or sell your business is your decision, not your lawyer’s. Remember that we work for you. You’re the captain of the ship, and we go where you send. So please take the time to fully develop your goals and the future direction of your business. Whatever your desired outcome is, share it with your lawyer, and we’ll discuss your options to making it happen.

For more information about what we can do for your business, call 713-574-8626.

 

Talking Money Before Marriage Part 2

Sex and the City was a groundbreaking show about four single women in New York. This HBO series chronicled the lives and loves of Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda as they dated and sometimes married the men who entered their lives. One of those women, Charlotte York, was faced with a situation that some people can relate to. She was engaged to a man named Trey MacDougal from a wealthy family, and he casually presented her with a prenuptial agreement before a dinner party. Confused and a little insulted, she consulted her good friend Miranda Hobbes, Esq. Miranda told her the agreement was standard and encouraged her to sign it, but Charlotte had lingering concerns about her presumed worth in her future marriage.

While you may not be a fan of televised romantic comedies, you may want to know more about the reasons people enter into prenuptial agreements. The driving factor to be addressed in this post is control over family assets and inheritance rights. Historically, some people have created trusts for their children that they fund throughout their lives to encourage them to make certain kinds of choices (such as to attend college, marry,  or enter military service), and when these children grow up and marry, their parents want to make sure their hard- earned investments do not become the subject of a property dispute during a divorce.

Usually, these fears are unwarranted. Property owned by one spouse before marriage is his or her separate property, but it is possible for this family trust or inheritance money to become so mixed with community property that it actually becomes classified as community property. In order to prevent this from happening, some families urge their descendants to enter into prenuptial agreements to clearly identify the funds received from the family trust as separate property, not subject to any claims made in divorce or any other law suit. If you come from a family that has left you financially secure via trust accounts, investments, or real property, it is a good idea to identify your resources and isolate them from the assets you may acquire during your marriage. You should do this not out of pessimism or mistrust for your future spouse, but to insure that you will be able to decide what happens to these assets before, during, and after you marry.

Please consult an experienced family law attorney to discuss your financial plans before you enter into this new phase of your life. The attorneys at The Law Office of Kimberly D. Moss would be happy to answer any questions you may have and are ready to discuss the ways in which your life may change upon marriage. You may contact us via email at moss.law.houston@gmail.com or by phone at 713-574-8626.

Stay tuned for the next installment of Talking Money Before Marriage!

Getting Married? Here’s What You Should Know

You’re in love. You’re ready to spend the rest of your life with the man or woman of your dreams, but you also know the terrible divorce rate in the U.S. and you’d sure hate to be in the category of the 49-51% of couples who end up divorced. The statistics, unfortunately, are simply not on your side. As unromantic as it may be, divorce is an incredibly common occurrence, and if you have property or children from a previous relationship, it is a good idea to consider a premarital agreement.

Texas is one of nine community property states. The one thing you need to remember about community property is that what you acquire during marriage (whether it’s income, equity, or interest) becomes community property or belongs to both you and your spouse 50-50. This means that if you and your beloved call it quits, it is very likely you’ll end up with only half of your stuff when the divorce is over. Most people assume this risk and get married anyway. Other people have taken a different route and decided to discuss this issue with their intended before saying “I do.” I strongly recommend the latter tactic. A premarital or prenuptial agreement is a contract that explains what you have decided to do with your property, finances, and debt as a couple during your marriage. It is drafted before the marriage and is binding throughout, unless it is revoked in writing.

Some people enter into a marriage and then decide that for some reason it would be best to partition or separate some of their community property and designate it as separate. Other times they may decide to separate some of their separate property and convert it into community. There are all kinds of reasons that couples decide to do this, but usually there are tax implications underlying these decisions. In this case, the couple contacts a lawyer who recommends a postmarital or postnuptial agreement. It has the same effect as a prenuptial agreement, but it is drafted during the marriage rather than before.

If you are considering marriage or are currently married and want to know more about community property laws and how they affect many aspects of a marital relationship, please contact this office. We’d be happy to discuss your rights and answer your questions.