Category Archives: Real Estate

Free Wills Month: Your Mortality? It’s Not Morbid.

tigerThis month for the entire month of May, this law office is participating in a campaign known as Free Wills Month. Anyone over the age of 55 years old (or married to someone 55 and up) can get a FREE consultation with us to prepare a simple will.

For those of you who follow the blog, you may remember that we did this promotion two years ago. You can check out the inaugural blog here.

Anyway, this is one of those things that should be an easy sell. Everyone likes things that a free, but when it comes to pondering one’s eventual demise, people are incredibly reluctant to do so. Specifically, older people. This makes total sense and is natural, but in some way it’s counter intuitive. We plan for our weddings. We plan for vacations. We plan for every other event in our lives except  death.

This is not to disparage or demean the Baby Boomers in my life, but you guys…please, come on.  Your children and extended family will very much appreciate knowing your desires about what should happen to your belongings when you meet the fate that will greet us all. Dad, if you’re reading this, this blog is dedicated to you. I sincerely hope that after years of patient badgering, I have worn you down and finally convinced you to follow my advice.

Love always,

Your tireless youngest daughter

P.S. This campaign directly benefits Texas Children’s Hospital and will run from May 1 to May 31, 2016. For more information, check out the website.

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.

Renting Your Room on AirBnB? Real Estate Law Applies

Vacation rentalsAn AirBnB host in California got a rude awakening to the reality of using the internet to turn her home into an income producing property. Cory Tschogl rented out her condo to an individual using the popular vacation rental website for a long-term stay. When Tschogl was ready for him to leave, he refused. In California, any tenant who spends more than thirty days at a rental property has the right to receive notice of eviction before they are legally required to leave. As a result, Tschogl has had to hire an attorney to evict the AirBnB guest which is an outcome she had not predicted nor planned to handle at the time she made her condo available for rent online.

What most users of AirBnB fail to realize is that renting out your spare room, condo, or other living space makes you a landlord, and the guest is your tenant. Landlords have certain responsibilities, namely they must ensure the property is safe and habitable, repair any known safety hazards, and in Texas, they must provide three (3) days notice before filing for eviction against a delinquent tenant if there is a written or oral lease. It could be argued that an AirBnB agreement is a type of lease agreement, albeit short term. While it is unlikely that an AirBnB guest will decide to squat in his or her chosen vacation rental, the implications of basic real estate law should be considered by anyone seriously contemplating opening up their property to the public via AirBnB or some other outlet.

For more information about how to protect your property, please give us a call to schedule your initial consultation at (713) 574-8626.