Wills do not have to be registered

Q. My father recently passed. Question is, he had made a will with a lawyer but never had it registered. Is the will still valid? What happens if he did not have a will? Does all the property go to the state?

A. A will is valid and enforceable once it is properly prepared and signed. In most cases, a will also is notarized. This is not necessary, but it does make it easier and less expensive to probate the will. A will, however, does not have to be filed or registered to be valid. The attorney may now file the will for probate.

If there was not a will, state law determines who inherits property. If there are any living heirs, the property does not go to the state.


Q. Can my employer require me to take a drug test?

A. In Texas, most private employers have the right to require drug testing of both applicants and employees. The constitutional right of privacy, however, protects employees of the government or other public employers. Public employees may be required to take a drug test only in limited circumstances.


Q. I bought a second-hand computer from an individual online. It turns out that the computer did not belong to the person who sold it to me, and the owner now wants it back. What are my rights? Does the owner have to give me back the money I paid?

A. As far as the law is concerned, the owner of the stolen property is entitled to its return. The thief had no right to the property and neither does anyone who buys it. Because you have no right to the property, you must return it to the owner, and the owner has no obligation to give you anything in return. Your rights are against the person who sold you the property. Assuming the person you bought the property from was the thief, you may be out of luck.

Buying property from an individual, whether it is online, at a garage sale, or through the want ads, is often a good way to get a deal. Be careful, however, if the deal seems too good to be true, or the circumstances seem unusual. You buy at your own risk when it comes to stolen goods.


Q. About 10 years ago, I did business with a company and did not pay my bills. I was shocked to find out that it still refuses to deal with me until I pay. Isn’t there some sort of limitations period for collecting a debt?

A. There are limitation periods for any type of legal action. For example, most debts cannot be enforced in court after four years. There also are limits on how long such information may be reported on your credit report. Generally after seven years, the information becomes obsolete and cannot be reported. There are no limitations, however, on how long you “owe” a debt. In fact, until it is paid or discharged in bankruptcy, the money is owed.


Q. My lease expires in two months. My landlord wants me to pay an additional $500 security deposit to renew the lease for another year. Before I sign it, I would like to know if there are any legal limits on the amount of a deposit. I am already paying a lot of money.

A. A security deposit is a matter of private contract law between you and your landlord. The landlord may ask for whatever amount he wants, and may increase the amount as much as he wants at the end of the lease. On the other hand, you have the right to refuse to pay, and insist that the deposit remain the same. At that point, the landlord may accept your proposal, or refuse and tell you to pay the increased amount or move.


Do you want to know more about your legal rights? Check out my website, www.peopleslawyer.net