Scales from old office2 - 10-31-2013.JPG

Frequently Asked Questions

Justice Scale
Elegant Abstract Background
FAMILY LAW:


1.   How much does a divorce cost?


This question is truly difficult to answer without a consultation with an attorney. If you would like to explore this question for your particular case, then you can request a zoom, telephone, or in person consultation at this email:  consultationrequest@csmithlawoffice.com. The fee for an initial consultation for up to 30 minutes for a divorce or other family law matter is $100.00.


Some sources indicate that the average cost for a divorce in Texas ranges between $15,000.00 and $24,000.00. The Law Office of Christopher L. Smith has successfully completed many divorce matters at an ultimate cost far below the average. The Law Office of Christopher L. Smith will explain to its clients how to reduce the cost of divorce as much as possible, but ultimately the cost is determined by choices made by the client and opposing party.


Many factors determine the ultimate cost for a divorce, including but not limited to:


whether the matter is uncontested; are there children involved; are there complicated financial issues; are there retirement accounts to be divided; are there debts to be divided; is there a need for discovery; is there a need for the appointment of an ad litem or amicus attorney; will a custody evaluation be necessary; are there mental health issues; are there drug or alcohol issues; is a protective order needed; is the other party reasonable; is the other attorney reasonable; is the other party vindictive; is your objective merely to resolve the divorce in a fair and equitable manner to both parties or is your objective to cause pain and misery to the other party; and, many other factors.


Although it is not possible to give a specific amount for the cost of your divorce matter, in general, the lowest fee you can expect to pay at the Law Office of Christopher L. Smith is $1,500.00 plus court fees and court costs. A few cases may be handled for less, but most will not be handled for less than $1,500.00.


2.   If my case is uncontested does my spouse need his own attorney?


An attorney simply cannot represent both parties in a divorce. There are inherent conflicts between divorcing parties that require each to have independent legal advise. No rule or law requires your spouse to have his or her own attorney, but your attorney cannot advise your spouse. It is up to your spouse to determine whether he or she wants his or her own attorney.


3.  What is an uncontested divorce?


A divorce case is not uncontested merely because both spouses want a divorce. An uncontested divorce matter is one in which the parties have agreed on all issues involved in that particular case. It is also a must that both parties cooperate fully in providing necessary information, exchanging documents, and signing documents. You and your spouse must have already come to an agreement on all issues involved in your particular case which may, among other issues, include:

the type of conservatorship for children; child possession schedule; holiday and summer possession; amount of child support; medical and dental insurance; division of assets; division of debts; how to handle division of retirement accounts; and, transfer or sale of real property.


Your spouse must be willing to provide all necessary information, sign a Waiver of Service, and sign the Final Decree of Divorce as prepared by your attorney.


If your attorney has to help you negotiate these matters or deal with another attorney, then it is unlikely that your divorce case is an uncontested matter.


4.  Why do you charge a consultation fee?


Abraham Lincoln is credited for saying “A lawyer’s time and advice are his stock in trade.” There are only so many work hours in each day. It is important to the success of an attorney’s law practice and the outcome of his client’s cases that an attorney use his time wisely. Many people will be happy to chat away with an attorney when they incur no cost to do so. An attorney simply cannot serve his client’s while spending countless hours giving free advise.


The Law Office of Christopher L. Smith is a serious law firm for serious clients with actual legal needs. If a client is not willing to pay a small fee to get information about a legal matter or questions answered, then he or she is not likely serious about hisor her legal matter and is merely curious about certain fact scenarios.


5.  Do you offer free or pro bono services?


In general, no. Providing legal services is my way of earning a living. You would not go to your dental office job, plumbing job, or waitress job if your employer asked you to work for free. Why would you expect an attorney to work for free?
The Law Office of Christopher L. Smith handles pro bono cases through programs such as the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, Collin County Bar Association, and other programs that verify that the client is unable to afford legal services.


6.  Can my spouse file a divorce in Texas if I live in another state?


The short answer is yes. The real question is can you be forced to defend a case filed against you in Texas if you live in another state. Like most legal questions, the answer is, it depends. Did you recently move out of Texas? How long has your spouse lived in Texas? Have you ever lived in Texas? Did you live in Texas with your spouse? Did you conceive a child in Texas? Do you own property in Texas? Do you conduct business in Texas? Have you already filed in a different state? Many factors must be considered. The Law Office of Christopher L. Smith handles cases involving issues of jurisdiction and venue. If you would like to explore this question for your particular case, then you can request a zoom, telephone, or in person consultation at this email address: consultationrequest@csmithlawoffice.com. The fee for an initial consultation for up to 30 minutes for a divorce or other family law matter is $100.00.


7.  Can my child’s other parent sue me for custody and child support in Texas if I live in another state?


The short answer is yes. The real question is can you be forced to defend a case filed against you in Texas if you live in another state. Like most legal questions, the answer is, it depends. Did you recently move out of Texas? How long has your spouse lived in Texas? Have you ever lived in Texas? Did you live in Texas with your spouse? Did you conceive a child in Texas? Was your child born in Texas? How long has your child lived in Texas versus other states? Do you own property in Texas? Do you conduct business in Texas? Has a case already been filed in another state? Many factors must be considered. The Law Office of Christopher L. Smith handles cases involving issues of jurisdiction and venue. If you would like to explore this question for your particular case, then you can request a zoom, telephone, or in person consultation at this email address: consultationrequest@csmithlawoffice.com. The fee for an initial consultation for up to 30 minutes for a divorce or other family law matter is $100.00.


PROBATE/INHERITANCE ISSUES:


1.  My spouse died and his or her Will leaves everything to me. Do I need to probate the Will?


In most cases, it is best to probate the Will. Probate is a tool used to administer an estate after a person dies. Among other things, administering an estate allows the Executor to settle claims against the estate; settle claims owed to the estate, clear title toreal and personal property; legally and formally transfer title to real and personal property; compromise and settle debts left by the deceased person; make life easier for children and future generations; and, provide a sense of closure for the surviving spouse and family.


Many people mistakenly believe that there is no need to probate a Will because they assume that the surviving spouse gets everything anyway. This is often not the case. There are several situations in which the surviving spouse does not inherit all of the deceased spouse’s property. Probating the Will is a way to ensure that the deceased spouse’s last wishes and desires are met.
Many times families have chosen not to probate the Will and then later, after it is too late to probate the Will, and often after the surviving spouse has died, find themselves in difficult situations that could have been avoided by timely probating the Will. In general, a Will must be probated within four years of a person’s death.


2.  How much does it cost to probate a Will?


It is not possible to give an accurate estimate for the total cost to probate a Will without consulting with a potential client and getting details regarding the deceased person, the Will, and the estate. If you would like to explore this question for your particular case, then you can request a zoom, telephone, or in person consultation at this email address: consultationrequest@csmithlawoffice.com. The fee for an initial consultation for up to 30 minutes for a probate law matter is $100.00.


Many factors determine the ultimate cost for a probate law matter, including but not limited to:


has the original Will been located; is the Will valid in Texas; are there multiple pieces of real estate in multiple counties; are the Will beneficiaries cooperative; in what county will the probate matter be filed; how many creditors and what type of creditors will be involved; does the estate own multiple bank accounts; are taxes owed; does the estate own stocks, bonds, brokerage accounts, or mineral rights;


3.  I’ve been named as an Executor in a Will, but I do not live in Texas. Can I still serve as the Executor?


Yes, a person living in another state can serve as an Executor in Texas.


4.  My mother’s or father’s Will named my sister or brother to be the Executor ,but I do not trust him or her. Can I be the Executor?
 

If you have real facts and evidence to prove why the named Executor is not trustworthy, then it may be possible to contest his or her appointment. However, this is generally a very difficult mountain to climb. The testator evidently trusted the person named in the Will to serve as the Executor and Courts are not inclined to change the terms of the Will as set out by the testator.
 

5.  My parent died and I am trying to sell his or her house. The title company says that I need Letters Testamentary. What does that mean?


Letters Testamentary is a document issued by the probate clerk upon the order of a Court after the Court has admitted a Will to probate. The Letters Testamentary authorizes the Executor of the estate to conduct the business of the estate, such as, selling or conveying property, signing deeds and car titles, transferring bank funds and closing bank accounts, and settling debts. Until, and unless, a person has been appointed the Executor of an estate and granted Letters Testamentary by a Court, that person has no authority to act on behalf of an estate.


6.  My parent or spouse died without a Will.  I need to sell the house, administer the estate, and settle debts. How can I get authority to administer the estate without a Will?


You can file an application with the appropriate Court to open an administration of the estate and be appointed as the administrator. This court action will usually also involve an action to determine the heirs of an estate. You will need to retain an attorney to apply for an estate administration and to file a petition to determine heirship. If you would like to explore this question for your particular case, then you can request a zoom, telephone, or in person consultation at this email address: consultationrequest@csmithlawoffice.com. The fee for an initial consultation for up to30 minutes for a probate law matter is $100.00.


ESTATE PLANNING:


1.  My parent has cannot take care of himself or herself.  Can I get a power of attorney to make decisions for him or her?
 

Your parent must be competent to sign a medical or durable power of attorney. If your parent is not capable of discussing his or her wishes with an attorney, or if he or she does not understand what is going on, or if he or she is unresponsive or in a coma, then it is too late to obtain a medical or durable power of attorney. A guardianship maybe the only avenue for you to gain authority to make decisions for your parent. However, if your parent remains competent, then he or she can sign a medical or durable power of attorney.


2.  My spouse and I do not own much.   Do we need a Will?


Yes. Having a Will and not needing it is far better than needing a Will and not having it. Those who own the least probably benefit from a Will the most. It is less expensive, and usually less complicated, to deal with a loved one’s estate with a valid Will than without one.


3.  How much does a Will cost?


Will packages at the Law Office of Christopher L. Smith start at $900.00 per person and $1,250.00 per married couple. A Will package typically includes a Will, Directive to Physicians, Medical Power of Attorney, and Statutory Durable Power of Attorney. The more complicated you want your Will package to be, the more expensive it will become.


4.  Can I just get a Will off of the internet?


Of course you can. However, the one you choose may or may not be valid in Texas despite the vendor’s promise that the Will is valid in Texas. Many times a person will bring in a loved one’s Will that he or she purchased on the internet or in an office supply store only to be told that the Will is not valid for various reasons. Some reasons that the Will is not valid include the form of the Will, important legal language missing from the Will, the failure of the testator (the person making the Will) to correctly complete the Will, and the failure of the testator to correctly sign the Will. Perhaps the only reason attorneys like do it yourself legal forms is that correcting the mistakes and repairing the harm done by them earns the attorney more fees. The phrases “buyer beware” and “you get what you pay for” should be considered when purchasing a do it yourself Will package.