93.1. Kiss FM – Ask A Lawyer – Part 1 – April 21, 2022

Ask A Lawyer - Michael Gopin

Mike: Okay, let’s try this again. Can you tap the microphone? Let me see if I can hear you tap it really hard. Okay, now can I get a woot woot?

Michael: Woot woot.

Mike: Okay. All right. It’s working. Now, let’s see. Steve Kaplowitz is joining me this morning.

Steve: Oh, don’t worry. I’ll make sure that mic works.

Mike: Yeah. I don’t know if his works. I can’t hear him.

Steve: Yeah, me neither. My wife says the same thing for the last 17 years. That’s right.

Michael: [Inaudible 00:00:24.379] Steve.

Mike: He’s not a loud talker. Steve doesn’t talk loud at all.

Steve: No, not at all.

Mike: Steve doesn’t even need a microphone. Actually, that’s what we should have done, to begin with. We should have just given you his…

Steve: That’s right.

Mike: And he wouldn’t even have to shout out the questions.

Steve: You know who I learned that from? The late great Paul Strelzin. Never needed a microphone in his life.

Mike: “That’s right baby. There’s my weenie flag, baby.” Okay, so let’s get started. This is “Ask A Lawyer” with Michael Gopin and these are questions that you have submitted either through the app or on kisselpaso.com, legal questions that Michael will answer for you.

Steve: Fantastic. So Army’s gonna start it off, Mike, and here we go. “I have a question,” Army says. “If you bought a house, then you met a person, she moved in. The two of you have been living together for years. Does that girl have the right to get any part of the house if it was sold?”

Mike: Oh, man, she’d probably take the closet in the bathroom. If she had the right to a part of the house, I bet you those would be the two she would pick.

Michael: Well, sounds like the question is, were you guys common law married or not? And the definition tends to be if you held out as married to other people. So if you said, “This is my wife.” even though you weren’t legally married, and then you’re living together, you’re gonna be common law married.

Mike: So, like, is that the key phrase, or what? You have to utter that phrase to people?

Michael: I mean, basically, yes. Doesn’t have to be those exact words, but you have to hold out as a married couple. So you know, some people will say, “Well, we never got married by the state or the church but, yeah, this is my wife or my husband or something like that.” In that case, if they’re living together, yes, they’re common-law wife, and that is a marriage. So it sounds like he bought this house before he was married, so it’d be his separate property if they were common-law married, and therefore, she wouldn’t be able to get the house, but she would get some reimbursement. She would have a reimbursement claim for the money that the community estate paid out for the house during the marriage. So it’s a very complicated legal situation.

Mike: It sounds like it. Because, like, what if, like, she never put in any money to pay for the mortgage?

Michael: Doesn’t matter because the question is if they’re married. If they’re married, my money is your money and your money is my money. So she is putting into the marriage because the husband’s money is also hers because it’s community property.

Mike: Oh wow. Even if it’s a separate bank account?

Michael: Correct. If they’re married, the first issue is are they common law or not? If they’re not, she has no right to anything. It’s over. If they are, then she has a potential right for reimbursement, depending on how long we’re talking about, but she would have a right.

Steve: By the way, if you’re not married, but you’ve been living together for years, when does the common-law thing kind of kick in? How long does it have to take for it to become common law?

Michael: It could be living together for two weeks if you hold out as married. So if you’d never hold out as married, “I’m just living with her. She’s my girlfriend, and we’re living together,” there’s no marriage. And you could be living there for 50 years, and there’s no marriage.

Mike: So it sounds like you would have to find people, that could back you up saying, “Oh, yeah, he always introduced me as the wife.”

Michael: Correct. It would be a battle of common law or not.

Mike: Oh, wow. Oh, man.

Steve: That’s interesting.

Mike: Yeah. You should have just given her a key and…

Michael: That’s what you would have done. Is that what you’re trying to tell me?

Mike: Pretend you had like a double lock, and that one would only be unlatched, you know, when you were home.

Michael: When it was safe?

Mike: Yes.

Michael: I gotcha.

Steve: I like that.

Michael: It’s a plan.

Steve: Here’s Martha’s question for you. My son was in a car accident after leaving UTEP, the other day. He was hit by another student from Juárez. Does this have any effect on his claim?

Michael: No. The fact that he was from Juárez has no effect on his claim. The question will be, does he have insurance? So, if he has insurance, you’ll be able to recover…

Mike: By he, you mean the driver from Juárez?

Michael: Correct.

Mike: Okay.

Michael: Yeah, the person that was driving the car from Mexico. If they have insurance, you know, there’ll certainly be a claim. They could go through insurance and recover for injuries, for property damage, and so forth. If there is no insurance, which is possible, then he would have to go ahead in his own insurance for the…what we talked about before, the uninsured motorist coverage claims.

Mike: Uh-huh. And that would be provided that he bought that, right?

Michael: Provided that he bought that, correct. So that’s why you need to make sure you have that coverage.

Mike: Because if you just get the cheapest one…

Michael: Liability.

Mike: Liability does not cover situations like this?

Michael: It would not cover, so you need to protect yourself with either collision or uninsured motorist coverage, which is what I would recommend that people get because it only protects the people in your car and not the other guy’s car. So it protects you and your family.

Steve: When you have most of these cases, do most people have uninsured motorist coverage as part of their policies?

Michael: Probably 50%, 60% probably do. There’s a lot of people that don’t and, I mean, I understand the reasoning. It costs more money.

Mike: Yeah, especially like a student. A lot of students, I mean, they just get what they have to get. You know, the $25 a month thing, which is just the liability.

Michael: But, yeah, the problem is when…and things happen.

Mike: And that only protects you when you’re the one that…

Michael: When you’re at fault.

Mike: Yeah. I see, okay. “Ask A Lawyer” with Michael Gopin and Steve Kaplowitz, is in for Tricia who will be gone probably for a couple more weeks, with the questions for Mr. Michael Gopin.

Steve: Another insurance question. This one’s from Andrew, “I was in an accident the day after my insurance expired. I was told by my insurance that they couldn’t help me, because of the date that it occurred. Is this true? I thought there was like a grace period or something like that?”

Michael: Well, I guess that will go to the documentation, and what you mean by expired. If they had sent you written notice that your policy expired on February 1st, and they mailed it to you, you got it, you didn’t do anything about it. February 2nd, the accident comes along, you’re out of luck. I mean, it’s just what it is.

Mike: Yeah.

Michael: So you really have to keep on top of those insurance coverages, so they don’t lapse.

Mike: Right. Or do the automatic renewal option.

Michael; Correct. Yeah. A lot of companies would have backed it out, you know, if you pay and…, “Okay, we’ll just reinstate it.” But once you told them that there’s another accident, there’s no way they’re going to reinstate it and have a, you know, liability on their hands. So, yeah, you just need to make sure that your coverages do not lapse.

Mike: Okay. So then, yes. It’s true. To answer his question or her question.

Steve: By the way, for future reference, if you get into an accident, and your insurance expired the day before, even though you’re taking insurance information, don’t contact your insurance about the accident until you renew your policy.

Michael: A little… Smart tip.

Mike: Can you do that?

Michael: You shouldn’t, but I’m sure that people have.

Mike: You have to get caught.

Michael: Right.

Mike: Okay.

Steve: All right. Here’s Jerry, “When my mother passed, and she had left me and my sisters some things in her will. My father, however, kept all of it and isn’t giving it to us. Can he do this?”

Michael: Well, that’s a legal and a more of a moral kind of question that you have to look at. Depending on what type of property and things your mom left to you. Let’s just say it was a sofa or something like that and it’s community property, so your mom can’t give away community property that your dad has ownership in. So she can give away her half of the community property but she can’t give away your dad’s half of it. So if it’s personal property like that, you can only give away part of it. So, your dad still has a legal interest in that piece of property…

Mike: Your dad needs a place to sit.

Michael: Right. You know, and maybe your dad is sentimental about these items, and really can’t fathom the idea of them leaving the house at this point in time. So I would suggest to be patient…

Mike: Or maybe he’s just a D. And he’s, you know…

Michael: That’s possible too

Mike: I mean, you know…

Michael: I mean, if it’s, you know, a money kind of thing, that’s easy. You can give away money, as long as it doesn’t go over half of the community property.

Mike: Okay.

Michael: So that would be something that she could collect. But, you know, you would need to do it in the courthouse and I don’t know if you want to go against your father in some situation like that.

Mike: It could be anything that’s property. It could be photos, it could be a dresser, it could be…

Michael: It could be jewelry or, you know, her mom’s jewelry, and the dad…, “I don’t really want to give it away, because it really means something to me, and it would hurt me if it’s gone.”

Mike: Which would be like, “You’ll get it when I’m dead.”

Michael: Yeah, exactly. So you would have to weigh the, you know, the pros and cons of going against your father in a court of law over stuff, you know?

Mike: Right.

Michael; It’s not worth it a lot of times, and, you know, I’d recommend giving your dad some time and…

Mike: I mean, you know, unless he’s a big D, in which case, then maybe you [crosstalk 00:09:32.441] about it, you know?

Michael: We can’t answer that type of question but, you know, It could be.

Mike: All right. “Ask A Lawyer” with Michael Gopin, and that’s the first set of your legal questions. We’ll be right back, we have more to ask of Michael Gopin. “Ask A Lawyer” on 93.1 KISS FM.

Michael J. Gopin

Michael J. Gopin has practiced law in El Paso since 1987. Even after more than 30 years, he still remembers his first jury case. It was two weeks after receiving his license, when he represented a person whose life had been forever changed after being blinded in a work-related incident...


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