Stepchild won’t inherit unless named in the will

Q. My stepdad recently died. He was the only father I knew for more than 40 years. He did not have a will. Do I inherit any of his property?

A. When someone dies without a will, state law determines who inherits the person’s property. Under the law, property of a stepparent generally goes to the person’s children. The term “children,” however, does not include a stepchild. Without a will naming you as a beneficiary, you do not inherit any of your stepfather’s property.


Q. I have been married for 10 years. I am currently considering divorce. Last month my father passed away and I inherited a large sum of money. If I file for divorce, will my husband be entitled to half of the money I inherited?

A. When you file for divorce, you basically split all of your “community property,” property you own jointly. Money you inherit, however, is “separate property” and is owned solely by the person who inherits it. Separate property does not get divided in a divorce. You should be able to keep the money you inherited, even if you get divorced. You should be sure to keep the money in a separate account and not co-mingle it with other funds.


Q. I heard that if my ex does not pay child support he could lose his driver’s license. Is this true?

A. Yes, it is true. A person who does not pay court ordered child support may lose any license issued by the state of Texas, including a driver’s license. In fact, he or she may even be put in jail.


Q. My credit card bill is due on the 15th of the month. Is this the date by which I must mail the check, or the date it must be received? I recently mailed my check five days before it was due and was charged almost $50 in penalties and interest when it arrived one day late.

A. The due date for your credit card bill is the date by which your check must be received. The credit card company recognizes that the check will take some time to arrive, and that is why there is a period of around 20 days between when your bill is received and when the check is due. Don’t rely on last-minute mail delivery. To avoid a late fee and interest, you should mail your check in plenty of time to arrive before the due date. An even better option is to pay your bill online and avoid any possible problems with the mail.


Q. If at the time of death someone has no money and no assets, who has to pay the bills? Which relative would be responsible?

A. When a person dies, the debts of the deceased are the responsibility of his or her estate — the money or other assets owned at the time of death. If a person dies with no estate, that is he or she does not have any property or cash, the debts do not get paid. Relatives are not responsible unless they have otherwise agreed to pay the bill.


Q. I let a friend borrow the extra key to my apartment, and he lost it. Can I require my landlord to change my locks?

A. Under the law, a landlord has an obligation to change the locks at his expense when a new tenant moves in. After that time, the landlord must change the locks whenever the tenant requests, as often as the tenant wants. The tenant, however, must pay the costs of installing the new locks. In other words, you can require your landlord to change your locks; however, you must pay the costs.


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