Know Your Rights: You do not get notice of repossession

Sept. 10, 2011 at 4:10 a.m.

By Richard Alderman

I have almost paid off my car note. I owe only two more payments. I was a few days late with my last payment and they told me they are going to repossess my car if it happens again. I am worried about losing the car. Can they do this if I am only a few days late? Will I get notice so I can pay whatever I owe?

As far as the law is concerned, the lender usually has the right to repossess if you are even a few days late on one payment. Unless your loan agreement says otherwise, you do not get a grace period to pay. Although most lenders will not repossess immediately, they have a legal right to do so. You also will not receive any notice before the car is repossessed. In the event your car is repossessed, you will have to pay the full amount remaining on your note, plus a substantial amount for the costs of the repossession. In my opinion, your best option is to not be late with the remaining payments. In fact, you may want to get a payoff amount from the lender and make one final payment to avoid any future problems.

I am unmarried and have three daughters. I want my one daughter to receive my home after my death. Can I give her a durable power of attorney so that she can simply transfer title into her name after I die? I do not have a will.

A power of attorney is not a substitute for a will. A durable power of attorney assigns only the power to do what you are capable of doing yourself. Because the power is "durable" it continues even if you become incapacitated, for example, due to Alzheimer's disease. Once you die, however, the authority granted by a power of attorney ends. If you do not want to transfer title until after you die, you must do so through a provision in a will. I should point out that in Texas, probating a will is not necessarily a complicated procedure and, depending on the estate, can be very simple and inexpensive. I suggest you speak with an attorney about preparing a will. Without a will, all your children will share your estate.

I recently held a garage sale and made a few hundred dollars. Someone told me that I must pay sales tax on this money. Is this true?

If you occasionally hold a garage sale, it is not considered a business and you do not need to pay sales tax. Sales tax is not required if you have no more than two sales a year. On the other hand, if you regularly hold garage sales, you are considered to be operating a business and taxes must be paid.

Does a common law wife have the same rights to her husband's property as any other wife?

As I have said many times before, the legal effect of a common law marriage is no different than any other form of marriage. The parties to a common law marriage have the same rights as any other married couple.

My husband and I are separated. What do we do to make the separation legal and insure that the property we obtain is not community property?

There really is no such thing in Texas as a legal separation. If you want to insure property you obtain is not community property, you and your spouse must sign a partition and exchange agreement. You should have a family law attorney assist you with this document.

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



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