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Will from another state may or may not be valid

By By Richard Alderman
March 30, 2013 at midnight
Updated March 29, 2013 at 10:30 p.m.


We just moved here from Indiana. My wife and I have simple wills prepared by an Indiana attorney. Are our wills still valid in Texas?

Your will may or may not be valid, depending on whether it complies with Texas law. Even if valid, however, it may not have the same effect in Texas because of the difference in state law. My suggestion is to simply get a new will prepared in Texas. Shop around, and you should be able to find an attorney who prepares a simple will for a very reasonable fee.

I have worked at the same business for almost a year. I was told that paid sick leave requires a doctor's note, and I could take unpaid vacation. Do I need to have a doctor's note? Doesn't the law require I receive paid vacation time?

As far as the law is concerned, the company sets the rules, and as an employee, you have to follow them. Although the law requires certain businesses give you an unpaid leave for certain illnesses, a business has no obligation to offer paid vacation or sick leave. If the company offers such benefits, it can establish the rules.

I have a hospital bill I was paying off when I lost my job. I couldn't pay for several months. I now have another job and want to start paying again. The hospital told me that it expects payment in full, will no longer accept partial payments and will sue if I don't pay. Doesn't the hospital have to accept my payments?

Under the law, no creditor is required to work with you to arrange a payment plan. The creditor may demand payment in full and refuse to accept anything less. Having said that, most creditors will accept what you can afford to pay. Creditors simply want to be paid, and they know that suing in Texas usually doesn't help. To see what can happen if you are sued, look at the debt collection section on my website, peopleslawyer.net.

I suggest you speak with them, explain your financial situation and let them know you are again able to make regular payments. My guess is they may try to get you to pay more but ultimately will accept what you can afford.

My husband left me about two years ago. I don't know where he is. Can I still get a divorce?

You can get divorced even if you don't know where you spouse is. Talk with a family law attorney about how you will need to "serve" him with the papers. If you cannot afford an attorney and are in Houston, call the Houston Volunteer Lawyers.

I have a life insurance policy and an IRA account with named beneficiaries. I have been told that when I die, my will controls the distribution of these assets and overrides my designations. Is this correct?

It is not correct. The beneficiaries of a will inherit only the property owned by the deceased at death. If the deceased had named beneficiaries in assets such as a life insurance policy or IRA, those funds pass at death pursuant to their terms and are not considered part of the estate dealt with by the will. In other words, the accounts go to the named beneficiaries, no matter what the will says.

Richard Alderman, a consumer advocate popularly known as "the People's Lawyer," is a professor at the University of Houston Law School in Houston. His column appears weekly in the Victoria Advocate. Write to him at UH Law Center, Houston, Texas 77204-6391. He also maintains a Web page at peopleslawyer.net.

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