Legal Issues When Dealing with Dementia

Potential Client: “Mr. Garza, I’d you to help me draft a deed for my mother. She wants to give me her house.”

Me: “OK, can I speak with your mother?”

Potential Client: “Well, she sometimes zones out and is confused, but she knows what she’s doing–most days.”

Dementia (and other neurological diseases) commonly confront attorneys when we are asked to handle Elder Law matters and related legal issues.

Here’s a link to a brief but excellent pamphlet relating to Dementia, and how to address care for aging loved ones. It covers Guardianships, Estate Planning, Disability Planning, Long Term Care Options, and Hospice in the event that Dementia or another neurological disease poses a challenge to your family member or friend.

Click to access DementiaGuide.pdf

Stop Debt Collector Harrassment

Financial hardships are stressful.  Whether it is because of credit card debt, student loans, mortgages, or past-due service bills, harassing phone calls from debt collectors can add a considerable amount to your level of stress.  Debt collector harassment has led to numerous personal bankruptcies, marital instabilities, loss of jobs, and invasions of privacy.

Although persistent attempts to collect from you is legal, debt collector harassment is illegal and will not be tolerated by the Federal Trade Commission.  Most debt collectors realize this and are good about obeying the law.  Sometimes, however, debt collectors may cross the line and engage in debt collector harassment.  Fortunately, there are legal actions you can take to stop this harassment.

The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) was created for the sole purpose of protecting consumers from debt collector harassment by prohibiting certain debt collector behavior.  It prohibits debt collectors employed by third party collection agencies from engaging in any form of debt collector harassment, but the Act’s provisions do not cover collectors hired by the original creditors themselves.

Among other things, the FDCPA prohibits:

  • Calling at unreasonable hours;
  • Failing to cease communication upon request;
  • Repeatedly and continuously calling;
  • Communicating with consumers after they have filed bankruptcy;
  • Communicating with consumers at their place of employment;
  • Communicating with consumers represented by an attorney;
  • Communicating with consumers after request for validation; and
  • Misrepresenting or deceiving.

For more information, see this link:

How To Sue in a Small Claims Court

If you are thinking of suing a person or business when you’ve tried other ways to resolve a problem, you should always consider going to Small Claims Court before hiring a lawyer.

There is a limit to the amount ($10,000 in Texas) and the types of claims that you can bring.  Also, a Small Claims Court can only award money damages (aside from evictions, it cannot force someone to perform, or issue an injunction prohibiting someone from doing something).  But Small Claims Courts are informal, effective, and a lot less expensive than attorneys.

Ensure that your claim is LESS than $10,000 (if not, the case will be dismissed).  Also, research the legal name and/or assumed name of a business to make sure that you are suing the right party.

The State Bar of Texas publishes an excellent pamphlet (PDF) on everything you need to know about handling a case in Small Claims Court.  Here is the link:

I guess “Arbitrator Judy” and the “The People’s Arbitrations” didn’t sell with the corporate sponsors.  Good Luck.

Texas Durable Power of Attorney and Form

A financial power of attorney is a legal instrument that gives another person (called an attorney-in-fact) the authority to make personal and financial decisions on your behalf.  A financial power of attorney can be as broad, or as specific as you want it to be.  For example, a power of attorney can authorize someone to make banking, tax, litigation, and/or financial planning decisions on your behalf.  A financial power of attorney does not, however, encompass medical decisions–a separate medical power of attorney is needed for that purpose.

You can make the financial power of attorney effective immediately after it is signed, or make it effective in the event of your incapacity (the inability to make decisions on your own behalf).

Although the State of Texas has promulgated a standard form to be used (see the link below), you should consult with an attorney when preparing a financial power of attorney to ensure that it accurately reflects your needs and wishes.