Q. I just inherited some money from my father’s estate. I was wondering how much I should put aside to pay my inheritance tax.
A. There seems to be a lot of confusion on how an estate is taxed when a person dies. There are no taxes imposed against a person who inherits money. In other words, you will not pay any taxes. There may, however, be estate taxes imposed against the estate, but only if it was a large estate. Currently, estates under $5 million do not pay any taxes. If your father’s estate was valued at more than $5 million, the estate would have to pay taxes, but any money you received would be tax free.
Q. I was told the University of Houston Law Center had students who could help with consumer problems. How do I get in touch with them?
A. The program you are referring to is the Texas Consumer Complaint Center. I started the Center six years ago at the University of Houston. It is staffed by attorneys and law students who always work under an attorney’s supervision. The center helps with just about any type of consumer problem, such as debt collection, landlord/tenant, automobile, construction and service contracts. Although we do not represent consumers in court, we do everything else we can to get matters resolved. The center does not charge for its services and can be reached at (877)839-8422, or www.texasccc.com.
Q. My wife and I separated. She has moved to California. If I file for a divorce in Texas, will she be entitled to alimony under California law?
A. If the divorce is filed in Texas, Texas law will control.
Q. I did something I probably should not have done at work, and was told to take a week off without pay. Am I entitled to be paid? I heard that in Texas you cannot be suspended without pay.
A. There is no law I know of that requires that an employer pay a suspended employee. Whether a suspension is with or without pay is up to the employer.
Q. I am owed $16,000 from an unpaid loan. I know the limit in small claims court is $10,000. I don’t want to hire an attorney to file in county court. Can I just sue for $10,000 so I can file in small claims court?
A. As you know, the jurisdictional limit in small claims court is $10,000. The limit, however, is based on the amount in dispute, not how much you request. As you state, the amount in dispute is $16,000. You cannot ask for less than you are actually owed to get within the court’s jurisdiction.
Q. Can I be arrested for not paying my credit card bill? A debt collector told me if I didn’t make a partial payment, he would have me arrested.
A. You cannot be arrested simply for not being able to pay your debts. There is no debtor’s prison in Texas. If you don’t pay the money you owe, you may be sued, but you cannot be put in jail. In fact, the threat to throw you in jail for not paying your bills violates both federal and state debt collection laws. For more information about what may happen if you don’t pay your bills, look at the debt collection section on my Web site.
Q. My father recently passed away. I am his only living heir. He didn’t own very much, but he did have a car. How do I transfer title to my name? Do I have to hire an attorney and go through probate?
A. You should be able to do this yourself. Changing the title to an automobile after death should not be a complicated process. To transfer title, you can use what is called an affidavit of heirship to a motor vehicle. This form allows you to transfer title to the person who is the deceased person’s heir. For a free copy of an affidavit of heirship, check out the “Wills” section on my Web site, www.peopleslawyer.net.