We have moved offices

If you've tried to find me, I've moved. Come see me at 717 N. Crockett St., Sherman, TX 75092. New phone is 903.964.0852. Same guy, different building

How much does this cost?

I get this question much more regularly now than 5 years ago. Thanks to the internet, we now have access to more information, and if you believe what you read, it SHOULD make things more transparent. Professional services are no different.  

Image result for secretsWhat companies like LegalZoom (often a bane of my existence) have done is the same that companies like CarMax has tried to do for the car industry, or the TDAmeritrades of the finance world: "here are our fees and costs, beat that small business!"

So, how much do things really cost? This transparency is generally good for the consumer, but too much information I believe has made our society overly skeptical about just about every transaction. 

Cut to the chase- I can change my own oil. Probably. But I'd have to buy the equipment, slide under my car (or jack it up and risk getting crushed) get really messy, and then have the spent oil to dispose of properly.  How much does that cost? Likely way more than the dealership or the local shop will charge me, and what the time, energy, and emotional turmoil would add up to. The cost is not just dollars and cents. 

How much does a cavity cost? Or a root canal? Would just brushing and flossing have been cheaper? Yeah, probably. 

The same logic should go into any professional service. Take the most basic thing I do: a Will. 

You CAN do your own at home. If you get it right, its fine. Some really good resources out there to help you, too. 

But if you don't: 

$500 cost for the attorney ad litem to be appointed when you pass, because you had no will. 
~$300 additional time required for filings for your lawyer. 
? Loss of control over where you stuff goes, and who gets it
~$500-$2000 cost savings that having a will provides in options for probate. 

So, what is a will worth? Baseline, $500, in reality much more. Again, the cost is more than upfront dollars. 

The next common question is when to pursue a claim or not. These get a little tougher. 

Caller: "Hello, (lawyer person). My (relative) died, and he had money in the bank. I need to get it." 

Lawyer person: "Ok, how much was in the bank?" 

Caller: "Probably $1000"

Lawyer person: "Did they have a will?"

Caller: "No"

Analysis: We already know that the no will tax is $500. The filing fees for most types of probate are a minimum of $300, with additional required costs of another $200-$300. You're already under water there, and the lawyer person has not even been paid yet. Its a poor result, that could have been fixed with a beneficiary designation. What makes sense at this point? Just walk away. 

The same process goes into any lawsuit. A common one I see is when you have rental property, the tenants move out in the night and steal your kitchen appliances. They owe you $5k in rent and to replace the kitchen will be another $10k. Sue them! Right?!? Maybe not. 

First, you have to find them to sue them. Problem. Next, you're looking at several thousand dollars in filing fees, costs PLUS lawyer time to get a judgment.  All that may be for naught, if they don't own property (which they never do, seeing as they are renters) or have assets you can attach (again, slim). So what is the result? You were stolen from, paid $5k for a judgment that doesn't get you anymore money. Would have rather just done nothing? I think so. 


In any scenario, more information can be a powerful tool in decision making. When it comes to professional services, lawyers included, you really have to consider more than just money when determining if any course of action makes sense. Is price your main driver? You may lose out on customer service, and be prepared to only have your self to blame if things don't work out.  

US Supreme Court filings: a primer

Sorry I've been gone a while, but I've been busy.

In today's post, I'll walk you through a (very rudimentary) tutorial on the shakedown that is filing things in the US Supreme Court, as I had to teach myself this last month.

Question 1: Why?

-I don't know why, but if you are the Petitioner, good luck. Depending where you look, the odds to get your certiorari granted are less that 5%.  If you are on death row, keep fighting the good fight, assuming you're innocent. If you're trying to keep minorities from voting in North Carolina, then I guess you have to keep trying.  Either way, its a pain to file things in the supreme court, but let's proceed.

Step 1: Get Admitted

So your case is appealed to the USSCT, or you need to appeal a case up there. First things first, you have to be admitted to the Supreme Court bar! Ask around, and some say this is a vanity trip, and I might not disagree. However vane it may be, its $200 and this form to join the club. You also have to find some friends who are part of the club to endorse you. Special thanks to the Richardsons, and Roger Sanders for this endorsement. Mail it off, and they send you an email saying..."one more click and you are confirmed!"

This takes you to a third party framing site, which, after rejecting the several overpriced framing options for your new shiny supreme court bar certificate, you can confirm you actually want the certificate you already paid for as part of your $200 fee. I understand it, because, capitalism and all, but poor form, supreme court, poor form requiring me to click through ten screens of pretty frames just to get my certificate. I digress.

Step 2: Respond

If you are at this point, you probably know your case and have most of the content ready to go. As any 1L or appellate lawyer will tell you, you end up spending as much time formatting as writing. This part is awful. However, I found this template that, while advertising for another company's services, got the job done. But that is just the beginning.

Step 3: The Booklet

Within THE RULES of the Supreme Court, you find out the following:

Rule 33. Document Preparation: Booklet Format; 8 1/2­ by 11-Inch Paper Format 1. Booklet Format: (a) Except for a document expressly permitted by these Rules to be submitted on 81/2- by 11-inch paper, see, e. g., Rules 21, 22, and 39, every document filed with the Court shall be prepared in a 6 1/8- by 9 1/4-inch booklet format using a standard typesetting process (e. g., hot metal, photocomposition, or computer typesetting) to produce text printed in typographic (as opposed to typewriter) characters. The process used must produce a clear, black image on white paper. The text must be reproduced with a clarity that equals or exceeds the output of a laser printer.

What? I can't just do it online? NO, you can't, and you can't do it at home/the office unless you have a print shop. A 6 and 1/8 inch by 9 and 1/4 inch booklet, it turns out, you cannot just make in your own office printer. It gets better.

Your petition has to have a white cover. An opposition? It has to have an Orange cover. Yep, orange. A brief on the merits? Light Blue. After that, you have to file 40 of them with the court, and 3 with all parties. FORTY.

Can't I just outsource this? You bet you can. And the outsources will email you. And Email you. For a complete hands off with response, expect to pay several grand. Cheapest quote I found for just printing and delivery was $1500 I think, most were around $3k and up.

Instead, I called my good friend Ronnie at BnB solutions and he made my little orange books perfectly, and got them to DC on time. Under $200. Ronnie, I salute you.

Step 4: Sit back and wait. 

Now is the easy part, you sit back and hope the Clerks up there agree with whatever your position is, and stick your 40 colorful books in the good pile.

PRO TIP: Call the clerks. They are awesome, usually answer their phones, and will guide you through everything. If they don't answer, they actually call you back.


If you have to file something in the US Supreme Court, don't fret. It can seem daunting, but as long as you take your time, you can get it done efficiently and cost effectively.

Beneficiary Designations, again.

I've written about beneficiary designations before, but they continue to be a source of conflict I'm seeing for clients. It's not just life insurance, either.

Think about your assets. Bank account, stock account, CD's, IRA's, 401k.  Probably, without thinking, when you set each of these up you had to fill out all sorts of questions. As I'm sitting here, I have no idea who I've named for all my account beneficiaries, and I do this for a living, so I'm guessing most of you do not either.

If truly you have never named anyone ever, then the rules are relatively simple. Whatever your assets are pass under your will, or under the laws of the state where you live if you have no will to your heirs. Unless, the contract for your account says differently. Want to cut out your no good kid? Policy might not let you. Really hate your spouse? Account contract might give it all to them. See why this is important?

Where it gets really sticky is if you try and change things, and something happens, and you don't get it done.


Wanda Worker has been with her company for 30 years, and has built up a large retirement with stock options that have vested.  She has two children, one who is in the pen for attempting to harm her pet parakeets, and another who is a nun working with disabled children. She fills out the form to change her beneficiary designation on her retirement account and her life insurance to her nun daughter, and on the way to the mailbox to send it off has a heart attack and dies.


What happens? Per the usual, it depends.

If left alone, its distributed pursuant to the policy rules. If Wanda was married, usually goes all to the husband. If she was not, split between the kids. There are two different theories out there that could change the result, whoever. In Texas, for life insurance and in limited other circumstances, courts have held that if someone "substantially complied" with the rules to change, its good enough.  Other accounts or policies require "strict compliance" which means if its not done right, sorry.  The problem with the "substantial compliance" standard is it puts someone else in the position to determine another's wishes.

In our above example, at first glance, Wanda did everything she could do to change her beneficiary designation. It wasn't her fault that she had a heart attack, right? Well, why didn't Wanda do it the day, week, month...before? She went to the nail salon instead. Is that doing everything she possibly could have done?

Take away:

You simply cannot be too careful with this stuff. Tomorrow is too late. However, should you find yourself, a family member, or other involved in a situation like this, or where one family member is trying to take advantage of another, thankfully there are options to make it right.

For an example of a case that played out like this, see THIS CASE. Think the result is fair or unfair? Let me know. 

Be careful what you sign for...

We sign things all the time. Mostly credit card receipts, but if you have ever bought a car, a home, or signed for a package, you are also representing to the contracting world that, by signing the document, you accept the consequences therein.

For most things, this is fine. Sign your electronic name at the grocery store, sign for your fragile antique cuckoo clock you ordered off ebay. However, if you sign for something as part of your job, or in a business capacity, you need to be much more careful.

Scenario #1:

You are a manager for Big Box Store, who sell mature pokemon to the public. You negotiate a great contract with your supplier of pokemon eggs, Fantasy Farms, in part by not telling them who the eggs were for. You sign the contract only with YOUR NAME. Turns out, people stop caring about pokemon, and Big Box Store stops paying on the contract.

Fantasy Farms sues you for the contract. Who wins?

Weren't you just doing your job? Well, sorta. Texas courts look at a few things.

Who signed the contract? Well, you did. Not the company. You should have signed it, YOUR NAME, manager, Big Box Store. That would have protected you. But you wanted a deal, so you didn't.

Next, did you disclose you were an agent or officer of the company? No, obviously. Strike against you.

If I'm the judge, I'm probably finding that you are stuck paying the contract.

Scenario #2:

You and a buddy are starting your medical practice together. You set up your company (doctor's can have special "professional association" entities, think an LLC just for doctors) and you sign a lease. However, when you sign the lease, you signed it as "Doctor A and Doctor B."   Business dries up and you want to move out. You do, the landlord sues you individually for the remainder of the lease. Can they pierce your corporate entity?

Depends. Again, was it obvious you were signing for the company? Was that disclosed? Did the lease include specific provisions to hold you accountable? (READ YOUR LEASE.) Are your books and records in order, showing you observed the corporate formalities? This scenario is very avoidable if you are careful when you sign the contract. To see what not to do, read this case.


The basic rule is if you sign for something as your name, its on you. If you are the president, manager, or back room clerk for Big Box store, sign YOUR NAME, CLERK, BIG BOX STORE. Else, its on you. The exceptions come if you disclosed who you work for, it was obvious, and if you are the owner/officer of a company, as long as you weren't trying to perpetuate fraud, you should be ok too. Key is disclosure.

This same logic applies for owners of a company, partners in a partnership, members in an LLC, etc. Don't give away your liability protection by signing something without your representative capacity, else your "corporate veil" could be pierced.

Take away:

We all wear many different hats. Individual, parent, spouse, mother, son, employee, owner, etc. Whatever hat you are wearing on any given transaction, make sure you disclose that hat, or you could get stuck wearing a hat you didn't intend.