Hotline set up to help TaxMasters clients

Q. I paid a company called TaxMasters to help me settle my problems with the IRS. I understand it has filed bankruptcy. What do I do now?

A. Unfortunately for you and thousands of others, TaxMasters, a company that was successfully sued by the Attorney General’s office for misleading and deceptive acts and practices, has filed a Chapter 7 bankruptcy. This means they are now out of business and the company’s assets will be liquidated. If money is available, creditors, including clients, will be paid or reimbursed some of what they are owed.Over the next few weeks, all former TaxMasters clients should receive a letter from the Chapter 7 trustee detailing all relevant information about the case and their rights. All former TaxMasters clients are urged to be on the lookout for the trustee’s letter and to read it carefully. TaxMasters clients must now work directly with the IRS or find someone else to assist them. To help former clients understand what is going on, what resources are available to assist them, and what steps to take next, the Center for Consumer Law at the University of Houston Law Center has set up a special “TaxMasters hotline.” Contact the Center by calling (877) 839-8422 or by visiting

Q. A few years ago, I borrowed money from a friend. He recently passed, and his wife is trying to collect this money back from me. There was never any written paperwork. Now her lawyer has sent me a copy of the deposit slip that just shows the amount deposited into my checking account. Can she make me pay this money back?

A. If you borrowed the money, you have a legal obligation to repay it. If you do not, you can be sued. The fact that there is no written agreement or promissory note does not matter. The deposit slip indicates the amount of money you received, and you seem to understand it was a loan and not a gift. Your obligation to pay also is not changed by the fact that the person to whom you owe the money has died. You now owe the money to his estate. My suggestion is to do the right thing and pay back the money you owe.

Q. Can I name my husband as executor of my will if he is also going to be the beneficiary?

A. Yes, a person who is a beneficiary may also serve as executor. Almost anyone may serve as the executor of a will. Basically, the only people who may not serve as executors are minors, incompetents, convicted felons, and others a court finds unsuitable.

Q. I am single. I just bought a home with $100,000 I inherited. I have been dating the same person for more than a year and we are talking about marriage. If I get married and divorced, will my husband be entitled to half the house?

A. The house is your separate property and your husband will not have an interest in it. When a couple gets divorced, the court divides all of the community property. Generally, this includes everything either of you obtain after you are married. Property you owned prior to marriage or property you inherit during marriage, however, is separate property and is not divided as part of the divorce. To ensure that your interest is protected, you might want to talk with a family law attorney about entering into a premarital contract, clearly spelling out your rights.

Q. Is it legal for an apartment to rent to only “seniors” and prohibit children? Isn’t this discrimination?

A. As a general rule, an apartment may not refuse to rent to a family with children because doing so would be unlawful discrimination. But there is an exception in the law for “seniors only” apartments. If 80 percent or more of the residents are over age 55, the apartment does not have to allow children.

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