- March 29th is National Vietnam Veterans Day. Those of us who grew up in the Vietnam era will never forget the nightly barrage of body counts, protests and vitriol reported by Huntley & Brinkley, Walter Cronkite, et al in the late '60s and early '70s. It was a dark time in our nation's history. But the men and women who served in Vietnam deserved better than the hatred and disrespect they received when they returned from the horrors of war.
My father and law partner, Lt Col (Ret) A.D. "Jake" Jacobson was one of those warriors. He served in the US Air Force for 24 years, rising from buck private (before the rank of Airman was used) to buck sergeant, selected for Officer Candidate School, was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, attended Radio Operator school, Navigator training and Undergraduate Pilot Training. He's one of a few Air Force officers entitled to wear three sets of wings. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1975.
Dad volunteered to go to Vietnam. As he explained to my mom, "This is what they've trained me for. I can't not go." Mom, ever loyal and supportive, understood. So while she stayed in Tucson, AZ with me (8th grade) and my sister (9th grade), Dad spent all of 1970 flying combat missions over Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in an F-4 Phantom II. 134 combat missions. He got reassigned from Da Nang to 5th Air Force in Saigon after six months, but still went back regularly and flew combat missions. Five Air Medals, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, a Bronze Star. He made it home, though.
We picked him up at Tucson International Airport right before Christmas. He was wearing civilian clothes (I found out later it was required because of all the hostility Americans had been showing to their own warriors). He had a surprise for me: he'd bought a Honda 70 motorbike and had it shipped home as "motorcycle parts". We had a ball putting that thing together, and I rode the heck out of it for the next year and a half, until we PCS'd to Venezuela.
Dad has pretty much retired from the active practice of law. He got his bachelor's degree and went to law school after he retired from the Air Force and spent another whole career doing what he intended to do before taking a valiant 25-year detour into the Air Force. Vietnam changed him in some way. Still my dad, but different. War does that to people. Now we call it PTSD - mild, but present. He only completely lets his guard down in the company of other warriors - sometimes including me, the 30-year Colonel. He got to fly a P-51 on his 80th birthday, and I've quite literally never seen him happier than when he talked about it. I'm very proud of him. Dad - Happy Vietnam Veterans Day.
"Abuelo Wanted The House To Go To _______"
The West Side of San Antonio, Texas is full of little houses that have been in the family for generations. Most people in the family know who Abuelo and Abuela wanted the house to go to. Often, unfortunately, A&A never saw the need to make wills telling the world who gets the house, so there are many homes with deeds that are generations out of date, making it a nightmare to get them sold or transferred into the name of the true owner and greatly decreasing their value.
Your city probably has an area similar to our West Side. However, it’s not just these areas of modest means that sport untitled real estate: Let me make this as clear as possible: if you own real estate, you need an estate plan. Period.
So what’s an estate plan, you ask? Simply put, it’s some form of written, properly executed document that tells the world who gets your stuff, including real estate, when you die. Without it, your heirs will have to rely on laws and statutes to figure out who gets what, and that often ends up being vastly different that you intended.
Example: here in Texas, if you die without a will and you’re married, AND you’ve only been married to that spouse, AND all the kids are kids of that marriage, then your spouse gets all the community property. Sounds good, right? Well, what if the two of you were living in a house you owned as a single person before y'all got married? That’s not community property, it’s separate property. That means your children inherit the house, not your spouse. Your spouse can live in it until he or she dies or abandons it, but can never sell it. Add to that the fact that your spouse only gets half of your separate personal property, with your kids splitting the rest, and you (actually, your heirs) have a potential mess on their hands.
Estate planning can be as simple or complex as you want it to be, from a simple transfer-on-death deed (“TODD”) to a living trust. The degree of complexity depends on your circumstances. The point is this: when it comes to your family’s inheritance, doing nothing is almost always worse than doing something.
As always, the above is legal information based on Texas law (because I'm a Texas lawyer), not legal advice. Every case and jurisdiction is different, and you should consult an attorney if you have questions or concerns about your situation.
Senator Judith Zaffirini (D- Laredo) introduced Senate Bill 31 this week, which would make using a cell phone (actually, a "wireless communication device") to text while driving a statewide criminal offense. A number of municipalities already have ordinances prohibiting the practice, but Zaffirini's bill would standardize the offenses and penalties throughout the state.
As a municipal court judge, a city prosecutor and a city attorney (in three different jurisdictions), I'm all in favor of people not texting while driving. It's a dangerous and thoughtless practice (full disclosure - in which I have engaged on numerous occasions), and puts everyone around you in danger. The evidence and statistics are clear: texting while driving is at least as risky as drinking and driving. Don't do it.
Here's my question: as introduced, the bill deals with texting while driving as follows:
Transportation Code Section 545.4251(b). An operator commits an offense if the operator uses a portable wireless communication device to read, write, or send an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle unless the vehicle is stopped. (Emphasis mine)
The issue I have is with the last five words. Many of the ordinances banning texting while driving state that "stopped" excludes being stopped at a light or in heavy traffic - in other words, you have to be off of any public roadway and not moving. Sen. Zaffirini's bill does not. One of the things most drivers (I haven't taken a poll) get frustrated with is the person in front of you who doesn't move when the light turns green - sometimes for so long that you miss the light. What's that person doing? TEXTING OR POSTING ON FACEBOOK! YOU know it. I know it. Seems to me that Ms. Zaffirini's bill helps protect others from the texting driver, but does nothing to protect the driver (and others) from road rage committed by the angry people behind him or her. I call it a good start, but not enough to fully deal with the issue of distracted driving. What say you?
I got another call this week from a client who was trying to get me to convince him that investing with a friend-of-a-friend is a great idea. This time the pitch was, "I can get you into this deal for ten grand, but I need $4K by tomorrow. We can worry about the rest later." The product was a "franchise" opportunity and he promised to "get you the paperwork next week, but you gotta pay to play and time's a-wasting", or words to that effect.
There are too many ways this "deal" is wrong to really go into, but the first one is that federal law requires that anybody advertising franchise opportunities provide written materials at the first meeting. There's more to it than that, but you get the idea: franchise or not, "Pay me now and I'll get it to you next week" should ALWAYS be a red flag.
Another client is opening a new business and fronted a bunch of money for equipment which hasn't been delivered yet. In my client's defense, the guy was all smiles and promises when he was trying to get my client to buy. However, when the client asks the seller for a status, he gets anger and obfuscation (and no details on where the equipment is or how it's being delivered). People who get mad when you ask for details are also a red flag.
Some call it the still, small voice, others a nagging doubt, but what it often comes down to is your gut. Trust your gut. The adage, "If it seems too good to be true, it probably is" may be overstating things, but if it seems too good to be true AND THE DETAILS ARE FUZZY, run the other way.
*As always, the above is legal information, not legal advice, and you should consult with an attorney if you have questions because every case is different.