Thank you for reviewing our fees and policies. We strive for maximum transparency in this area, so if you have questions, please do not hesitate to ask.
Hiring a lawyer in today’s business environment involves a specific, spelled-out written agreement in advance. There is nothing “implied” or “assumed” or “customary” as might have been the case in years past. Sound business practice requires that you should always be crystal clear as to the terms upon which you have engaged your lawyer. Law firms vary widely in their fee and retainer agreements – there is no “standard.” Accordingly, this Fees & Policies page is our means of avoiding uncertainty and clearly establishing our terms of service with all clients.
Our office operates for the most part on the basis of flat fees per project (these are listed below), but we are also available for hourly billing and retainers when these are expressly pre-arranged with the client. Note that hourly billing is offered only to long-established clients, at our discretion. We do not offer contingency fee arrangements at all.
We cannot accept every case and are under no obligation to do so. Depending on our workload and resources at any given moment, the number of cases we already have in our queue or in litigation, certain geographical limitations, and so forth, it may be necessary for us to respectfully decline a case. We hope you understand. Also, you only become our client when we clearly agree to accept your case and the required payment is received.
The internet has revolutionized the way many law firms do business and we are no exception. Beginning this year, all initial consultations, entity formations, and most routine document preparation tasks are now handled exclusively online (not in the office), supplemented by phone if necessary. We do not accept or discuss new cases by phone or by in-office meeting. Advance payment is required. Sorry, no exceptions.
You will notice an itemized list of fees below. These are for online services. A range of in-office services (after the initial consultation) is available at 150% of the corresponding online fee.
The APR may take up to one 1.5 hours of attorney time over three calendar days and is subject to our usual reasonableness standard (explained below) as to its content, scope, and duration, and also as to the quantity of supporting documentation involved.
Please note the difference between residential and commercial cases since many of our fees vary according to this classification. “Residential” pertains to one’s own personal residence or homestead (buying or selling, title and lien issues, construction defects, exemption from judgments, and the like), while “commercial” pertains to one’s business, non-homestead investment properties, and investor issues and transactions. This difference is significant both because of the amount and complexity of documentation involved and the level of professional liability incurred by us. We make this distinction in our sole discretion. The nature of the structure on the property does not determine this distinction (e.g., it may physically be an SFR but used for a commercial or investor purpose). If in doubt, we will be glad to clarify whether residential or commercial fees apply in your case.
Commercial earnest money contract: $550 to $750
Commercial "As Is" addendum to earnest money contract: $250
Commercial warranty deeds: $275 (simpler) to $325 (complex)
Commercial promissory note: $275
Commercial deed of trust and security agreement: $375 (add $50 additional if the attorney is named as trustee)
Commercial assignment of note and lien: $295. Client to supply relevant exhibits.
Commercial letters of intent: $350 for valuations up to $600,000; $550 to 1.1M; $750 over 1.1M.
Commercial lease newly drawn up (does not include representation in the transaction additional fees apply): $750 - $950
Commercial deed in lieu (unilateral DIL): $375 up to $600,000; $550 $601,000 to 1.1M; $950 over 1.1M
Commercial option agreement: $425
Miscellaneous affidavits, certificates, etc.: $250 - $295
Commercial foreclosure: $2,250 in two installments
Commercial single document review/comment (not a re-write): $350 up to $600,000; $450 for $601,000 to 1.1M; $575 over 1.1M.
Commercial lease review/comment (not a re-write): $350 up to $600,000; $450 for $601,000 to 1.1M; $575 over 1.1M.
Guidelines only. The above are guidelines only since law is not an exact science. There may be some variation in fees since no two cases are alike. Also, add $50 to the cost of any document if there is a metes and bounds legal description that needs to be re-keyed by us. Add $50 if we are named as trustee in a commercial deed of trust. Clients do their own filing. Add $50 handling per document (plus the applicable filing fee) if we are asked to perform the task of filing documents with the county clerk.
Commercial Business Documents
Sale & assignment of LLC membership interest or corporate stock (unsecured): $350 for valuations up to $600,000; $550 to 1.1M; $750 over 1.1M. No note or security agreement.
Sale & assignment of LLC membership interest or corporate stock (secured): $750 for valuations up to $600,000; $950 to 1.1M; $1,250 over 1.1M. Includes note and security agreement.
Purchase and sale agreement for transfer of business: $950 for valuations up to $600,000; $1,500 to 1.1M; $2,250 plus for up to 5M. Client to supply relevant exhibits. Additional charges apply for a note and security agreement if the transaction is seller-financed.
Joint venture agreement: $750 for capitalization/projects up to $600,000; $1,250 for capitalization/projects up to 1.1M; $1,750 for capitalization/projections up to 5M. Client to supply relevant exhibits.
Confidentiality and non-compete agreement: $575
Independent contractor agreement: $575
Property management agreement: $350
License agreement: $425
Bill of sale (cash): $250
Entity formation see below.
The above are guidelines. There may be some variation in fees since no two cases are alike.
Buying and Selling Residential Properties
Levels of representation. Clients vary widely in what they want and expect from a lawyer in a real estate transaction. Some want only a minimal contract review with comments. Others want more comprehensive representation through closing. We offer the following options:
1. Review/Comment on the Earnest Money Contract (only). This is the minimum level of attorney involvement since it pertains to the sales contract only. Fees are quoted above.
2. Residential Title Commitment Review. Fees are quoted above.
3. Preparation of Sales Contracts. Preparation of the contract and/or revision of existing contract provisions are included. However, negotiations and brokerage functions remain the responsibility of the client and the client´s broker. This option does not include performing any of the broker’s customary drafting or negotiating duties. $350 residential, $550 - $750 commercial.
4. Ongoing Retainer for Attorney Review/Comment on Principal Documents. This is another limited form of representation in that it contemplates our reviewing and commenting on documents but not drafting or re-writing them or engaging in negotiations. Documents included within the scope of this option include only review/comment on (1) the earnest money contract, (2) the title commitment, and (3) the closing documents. A broader option is offered below. Fee guidelines are: sales price up to $600,000 – $575 residential, $775 commercial; sales price of $601,000 to $1,000,000 – $775 residential, $975 commercial; sales price of $1,100,001 to $1,500,000 – $975 residential, $1,500 commercial; sales price over $1,500,000 – inquire.
5. Full Attorney Counsel Through Closing. No limitations other than what is customary and reasonable for attorneys in the real estate industry. This option does not include normal contract submissions, negotiations, and other broker functions such as working with inspectors, appraisers, and surveyors - all of which remain the responsibility of the client’s agent or broker. Fee guidelines are: sales price up to $600,000 – $775 residential, $1,500 commercial; sales price of $601,000 to $1,000,000 – $975 residential, $1,750 commercial; sales price of $1,000,001 to $1,500,000 – $1,575 residential, $2,500 commercial; sales price over $1,500,000 – inquire.
6.Representation as Attorney and Broker. $950 in advance credited against 1% of the sales price at closing. Covers documents and negotiations. This option applies to situations where the client has already identified the property to be purchased or sold. Note: we will only represent buyers who make reasonable offers. All brokerage clients should read Information about Brokerage Services.
The client’s agent or broker. Except for (6), it is assumed that the client has an agent or broker who will be performing the usual duties of preparing and submitting offers and counter-offers; engaging in negotiations with the other party; arranging for the inspection, appraisal, and survey; and so forth. These are not customarily a lawyer’s duties. If the client does not have an agent or broker, then this must be disclosed to us prior to our accepting the representation.
Guidelines only. These options can get complicated, and law is not an exact science, so we reserve the right to review circumstances case-by-case and modify fees accordingly.
Residential Closing Documents Third-Party Finance, Owner Finance, Wraps, & Land Trusts
Third-party financed transactions Includes warranty deed, one note, and one deed of trust:
|Sales price up to $250,000 -
|Sales price $251,000 to 500,000 -
|Sales price $501,000 to 1,000,000 -
Owner-financed transactions (for paid-for properties). Includes warranty deed, one note, and one deed of trust: Sales price up to $250,000 - $650; $251,000 to 500,000 $750; $501,000 to 1,000,000 - $850, all excluding filing.
Wraparounds (for properties with existing debt/liens). Includes warranty deed, wrap note, wrap deed of trust, and wrap agreement: $750 (residential) and $1,250 (commercial). Assumes one wrapped note.
Land trusts ("exit trusts"): $750 excluding filing.
Anonymity trusts: $750 for the Trust Agreement plus $325 for the two deeds that are advisable when creating this structure. This is complex. Ask for details.
Attorney as trustee. If the attorney is named to serve as trustee in any deed of trust, add $25 (residential) or $50 (commercial). We do not serve as trustee for documents not prepared by us. We do not ever serve as trustee for our clients' land trusts.
Filing executed documents. If this office is asked to file documents with the county clerk, add the estimated filing fees plus $50 per document for handling.
Advance payment required for document preparation. Fees for closing documents are payable in advance, not at closing (in other words, we do not take the risk that the transaction will not close) and always exclude filing fees. Our charges are for documents only. Free closing services are not included in doc prep fees. Additional services are available but are not included in stand-alone doc prep fees. If our contemporaneous input is needed at closing, "conference call closings” are usually a satisfactory alternative, so long as the client has a notary and a copier available on site.
Although we are primarily preparers of custom, per-transaction documents, we offer a limited number of Word templates for our investor clients:
"Subject To" package (includes Sub2addendum for use with the TREC 1-4 contract, Sub2 Agreement, and two versions of our Sub2 General Warranty Deed): $750
Wraparound documents (includes Wraparound Addendum to the TREC 1-4 contract, Wrap Note, Wrap Deed of Trust, and General Warranty Deed): $750
Owner-financing documents (Real Estate Lien Note, General Warranty Deed with Vendor's Lien, and Deed of Trust): $750. Please specify if needing buyer or seller-oriented documents.
Residential lease (both our short and long forms for investors): $275
Modification/amendment to residential lease agreement: $250
Option to Purchase Agreement (to be attached as an addendum to a lease): $250
Seller's "As Is" Addendum for use with the TREC 1-4 Contract: $250
Seller's Wraparound Addendum for use with the TREC 1-4 Contract: $250
Property Management Agreement: $250
Confidentiality & Non-Compete Agreement: $295
Fees are for the templates only and do not include an in-office visit or an extensive online consultation on their use or application (although these services may be available at our hourly rate). Notice: our templates are more sophisticated than fill-in-the-blank forms. All of our templates require some measure of customization to circumstances. Also, we disclaim any liability whatsoever, and the client indemnifies and holds us unconditionally and absolutely harmless, from the final form, content, and/or manner in which these templates are used in any transaction in which this firm is not actively and directly involved.
LLC Formation (Texas and Nevada)
Texas and Nevada LLCs. Texas and Nevada series limited liability companies are a focus of ours. Most of the new companies we form are series LLCs because of simplicity, economy, and flexibility. However, we are still occasionally asked to form traditional LLCs and are glad to do so. Traditional LLCs are suitable for use as a management company or SPE (single purpose entity). Note that corporations are nearly obsolete in the type real estate investment and asset protection cases we handle. Fees are:
LLC (TX or NV) Traditional LLC $950 plus ff and costs
LLC (TX or NV) Series LLC $1,650 & up plus ff and costs
LLC (TX or NV) with Anonymity $3,500 Traditional, $4,500 Series
Limited Partnership (TX) $1,650 plus ff and costs
"Hub-Sub Structure" (with anonymity) $7,995 plus filing fees and other costs
Re-Doc/Conversion to Series LLC $1,250 excluding filing fee of $175 plus costs
Certificate of Amendment $325 plus filing fee of $175
Costs. Costs for newly-formed Texas LLCs include the filing fee with expedited handling ($325), company book (our cost notebook, seal, and custom membership certificates $150 for hardbound burgundy/black or $250 for burgundy leather), and $20 domestic shipping by UPS ground (overnight/air is $20 additional). Filing fees for amendments are $175.
Company books, seal, and membership certificates. Company books with seal and membership certificates are part of the package that we pass along to you at our approximate cost. We insert our own sophisticated documentation into these books (instructions, minutes, company agreement, etc.) designed to maximize asset protection. We are confident you will be pleased with the end product. As a matter of professionalism we do not deliver LLC documents without a company book.
IRS EIN This is not included but is easily obtained at irs.gov.
Anonymity Companies (Texas and Nevada)
We offer anonymity company formation in Texas and Nevada utilizing our own proprietary system of an "anonymity trust" (our term) in order to maintain the client´s anonymity in the Certificate of Formation. This firm is named as organizer and registered agent. Fees are $2,500 (traditional LLC) or $3,500 (Series LLC) plus the filing fee ($325 in Texas with expedited handling), plus the company book (our cost – includes notebook, seal, and custom membership certificates - $150 for hardbound burgundy/black or $250 for display quality burgundy leather), plus $20 domestic shipping by UPS ground (overnight/air is $20 additional), The annual fee for registered agent services ($250) is included for the first year. EIN not included but is easily obtained at irs.gov. Trust Agreement is included. Deeds of properties into the Trust are $250 excluding filing.
Re-Documenting an Existing LLC
“Re-doc” of a traditional LLC. If you have formed a traditional LLC with a minimal "one pager" filing and have no company book, no organizational minutes, no company agreement, and no membership certificates, you may not be fully established or protected, in spite of Texas’ general bias against “piercing the corporate veil.” We will document your traditional LLC with a new company agreement and provide meeting minutes to the current date. Our fee is $650 plus the cost of a company book and membership certificates at our cost ($150 for hardbound burgundy/black or $250 for leather) plus $20 shipping. If the formal filing of a Certificate of Amendment with the Secretary of State is recommended, then fees for the amendment are an additional $275 plus the $175 filing fee (which includes expedited handling).
Conversion/“Re-doc” of a series LLC. The process is that same as described above, except that fees for the re-doc are $1,250 plus the same costs listed above. This does not include filing a Certificate of Amendment (a detailed amendment to your Certificate of Formation) which is $325 plus the $175 filing fee (which includes expedited handling).
Total Structural Reorganization
Clients occasionally request that we take their existing complicated structure (often consisting of numerous LLCs, corporations, and limited partnerships) and overhaul it to create a simplified but effective asset protection program. This is usually a major creative project. Fees begin at $2,500 and are deposited as an initial non-refundable retainer. Supplemental retainer deposits may be required as the situation progresses.
From time to time, we may have an inventory of existing, established companies that are ready for immediate shipment. These are premium structures specially designed to include unique anonymity and asset protection features, and assumed name certificates. EIN excluded. All sales of shelf companies are absolutely final since they involve proprietary intellectual content. Absolutely no exceptions. If interested, inquire about our current inventory.
Annual Document Review (ADR)
This is especially useful for our entity formation clients since our documents are continually evolving and innovating. The ADR is offered for clients who have asked us to prepare documents in the prior year. Its purpose is to (1) make sure that the client has the latest version of each document in the client’s package; and (2) in the case of LLCs, to prepare minutes for the annual meeting. Fees are $250.
Additional Fees & Polices Relating to Company Formation
Deeding Properties into your LLC or Trust: Specially crafted deeds for this purpose are $250 excluding recording fees so long as there are no additional complex or custom provisions included. If three or more properties are involved at the same time, the fee for such deeds drops to $225 each. Add $50 if the legal description is by metes and bounds which will need to be keyed in by us (rather than simple lot and block). Clients usually do their own recording in the county clerk’s real property records. Add $50 per instrument plus the applicable recording fees (usually $28 - $32 for deeds depending on the county) if you ask that we do the recording for you. Note that recording is easy for you to do yourself by referencing the local county clerk’s website. For more details on this subject, see our web article Deeding Property to an LLC.
Management and consulting contracts facilitate capital flow between companies by providing a convenient label for inter-company transfers (consulting fees in one direction, management fees in the other). Strongly recommended for the two-company structure. Add $175 per agreement for a total of $350.
Assumed name certificates (DBAs). Signing and filing of Assumed Name Certificates under our firm name is not included, since this may expose us to additional liability (we then may be named as a defendant in any lawsuit against the entity) but may be available for an additional fee. For the most part, however, our clients file their own DBAs with their local county clerk.
Upgrade to leather company book. The company books we supply are heavy-duty commercial grade books that include a company seal and membership certificates. The usual company book is red/black hardbound and very nice. The premium book is generally burgundy/black leather and is extremely nice (display quality). Note that our vendors may occasionally run out of stock on any particular type of company book, and there are a number of styles out there, so we reserve the right to substitute another type of equal or greater value. Books are passed along to the client at our approximate cost. Sorry, for reasons of professionalism, we do not supply company documents without a proper company book to contain them.
Custom Drafting of LLC Documents. LLC documents are appropriately customized to suit the client and the situation but nonetheless follow a certain pattern and format. Asking us to prepare a company agreement, for example, is not an opportunity for the client to redesign or reinvent the way we generally draw up such documents. If the client desires a significant rewrite of a document that departs from our usual format, then a significantly higher custom document preparation fee would apply. Custom drafting services are most definitely available, but not at the shelf price. A custom company agreement is $1,500.
No returns. Neither shelf companies nor newly-formed LLCs are returnable or exchangeable because of the unique and valuable intellectual property involved in our documentation. We have done this work for many years and developed asset protection devices and provisions that are simply not available anywhere else. No exceptions. We cannot emphasize this enough.
Proprietary LLC documents. Our documents proprietary and licensed to the client for specific permitted use. They are never distributed for reuse. We reserve the right to decline to do business or file formation paperwork that lists a competing asset protection law firm as registered agent or otherwise threatens the proprietary nature of our documents.
Note on the availability of loans to real estate investors. It is occasionally necessary for an investor to “shop” lenders (just as he or she might need to shop title companies, insurers, and other providers) in order to determine which of these is most friendly to the investor’s structure and business model. Note that some lenders (although by no means all) may be uninformed about series LLCs or express resistance to lending to them. As to obtaining loans, this firm does not make any assurances that you or your entity will be able to get a loan from any particular lender. Any alleged representations and warranties as to a client’s ability to borrow money, get a loan, or obtain a line of credit, whether individually or in the name of an LLC or a series of an LLC, are expressly refuted and disclaimed. Lawyers never make any such assurances or guarantees.
Competing lawyers as registered agents. We reserve the right to decline to file formation paperwork that lists a competing asset protection law firm as registered agent or otherwise threatens the proprietary nature of our documents.
Registered Agent Services
Our registered agent services are priced at $250 annually per company. R/A services are limited in scope to (1) accepting service of process; and (2) forwarding official mail from the Secretary of State and Texas Comptroller as well as notice and demand letters from attorneys or claimants. In other words, a registered agent is not an all-purpose mail forwarder. Examples of items not forwarded are bank statements, personal correspondence, HOA correspondence, ad valorem tax statements, utility bills, magazines, and junk mail generally. We may open correspondence to determine its nature. Items will be forwarded by U.S. first class mail. Overnight delivery, UPS, Fed Ex, and overseas delivery incur additional cost. RA services do not include interfacing with the IRS. The RA fee is not a retainer for legal services, which are billed separately.
For us to be effective as an R/A, the client must furnish up-to-date contact information. If mail to the client is returned “not deliverable as addressed” we will resign as RA. The attorney serves only so long as the annual $250 fee is paid. We will not assist in furtherance of any illegal, unethical, or wrongful activity, including non-payment of state or federal taxes. If such occurs, then we will immediately cease delivering services without refund and will, upon demand by authorities, disclose the identity and whereabouts of the represented entity and its members, said circumstances being an express exception to the usual attorney-client privilege and a pre-condition to the attorney serving as registered agent. Clients consent to this. Failure to pay for other legal services (even if related) will result in our resigning as RA.
Note that services as registered agent are Texas state-level only. They do not include interfacing with the IRS or any other federal agencies. Registered agent services do not include signing Assumed Name Certificates (state or county) although this may be available for an extra fee. In the event a client defaults on any other obligation to this firm, or is otherwise terminated for cause, R/A services will immediately cease without refund to the client. Notices to the client may be by email in lieu of U.S. mail, at our discretion.
This is a useful asset protection technique if a client’s LLC has a substantial investment in a single property and/or legal action involving that property is a possibility. Equity stripping reduces the (apparent) worth of a company in the public records. The objective is to deter creditors and lawsuits. The process involves preparing a line of credit Promissory Note for up to a certain amount (say, one million dollars) payable to a creditor of your choice – if you do not have one, we can supply an existing Nevada company to function as your creditor. The Note is secured by a Deed of Trust which is filed in the public records. Included is a pre-signed Release of Note and Lien for the client to hold and file at a later time, as needed. Occurs county by county. Note that Texas has 254 counties. Fees are $650 excluding filing.
Affidavits of Heirship
Affidavit method vs. formal probate. We are often asked to prepare affidavits of heirship as an alternative to the more expensive formal probate process. The affidavit must be signed under oath by a person familiar with the decedent’s family history (usually but not always a family member) and witnessed by disinterested persons (i.e., persons who have no personal or financial stake in the outcome). Our requirements are: (1) the decedent must have died at least six months prior to the execution of the affidavit; (2) a death certificate must be available; (3) the affiant must be someone with personal knowledge of the family history of the decedent and having personally known the decedent for at least ten years; (4) the affidavit must be witnessed by at least two disinterested parties (three is better); and (5) if there is a will that has not been probated, it must be available to attach to the affidavit and must support the facts asserted in the affidavit.
Legal fees. Fees excluding costs are:
Fees in this area are by necessity more variable due to individual circumstances. Certain heirship and property situations may be so complex and messy that we will simply quote a non-refundable flat fee (usually ranging from $1,500 to $2,500 excluding filing) for the job.
Residential affidavit of heirship (does not include deed from heirs): beginning at $550
Residential affidavit of heirship (including deed from heirs): beginning at $825.00
No guarantees. This firm obviously can make no guarantees that all heirs will cooperate or sign off in clearing title. Also, and just as important, we make no guarantee that an affidavit we prepare will be “approved” by any particular lender or “accepted” by any particular future title company, since title companies are individually owned and underwritten and have different procedures and policies which change over time. The affidavit of heirship is an inexpensive creative process designed to avoid the greater cost of a formal probate proceeding in court which can easily cost up to $10,000 (more if contested). Although the affidavit method has a high rate of success, if absolute certainty is required, one should nonetheless seek a judicial determination of heirship (i.e., a judgment) from a probate court. We suggest you read our web article entitled “Affidavits of Heirship in Texas” for details before proceeding.
Lien Release and Removal
Lien release generally. This area can be complex and unpredictable, often depending on whether a judgment lien was abstracted before 9/1/07 or after. Results vary but are generally positive. Lien removal is handled exclusively online and fees are $1,250 per lien (i.e., per abstract of judgment). Since this is usually a mechanical process of working through statutory requirements, personal meetings between attorney and client are unnecessary so long as we are provided with the info we need. Tax liens are generally not removable and must be paid from closing proceeds.
Certain limitations exist. Be aware of the limitations on this process: (1) in the case of pre-2007 A/Js, there is no guarantee that litigation will not be required; (2) in the case of post-2007 A/Js, there is no guarantee that a title company will cooperate and honor the statutory affidavit. These conditions reflect gaps and flaws in this statute that the legislature may someday remedy. We nonetheless have broad success in this area. Please read our article Lien Removal in Texas before proceeding.
Trusts: Living Trusts, Land Trusts, and Anonymity Trusts
Living trusts for the homestead. An excellent probate-avoidance device. $750 not including the deed into the trust (necessary to complete the process) which is an additional $275 $295 plus recording fees (usually $28 - $32 depending on the county). Read our web article on Living Trusts in Texas.
Pour-over will to go with living trust. This instrument is a relatively simple will that “pours” assets into the living trust at death. Note that it requires witnesses and a notary for proper execution (which we obviously cannot provide online). $295.
Anonymity trust. This is a creative device in which the name of the trustee is not disclosed in the public record, and it must be carefully done in order to work. Fees are $1,250, which includes the Trust Agreement plus the two deeds that are required when creating this advanced structure. One deed is filed (not showing the name of the trustee) and another deed, which does show the name of the trustee, is held in reserve in the event a subsequent title company requires it.
Residential entry trusts. These facilitate anonymous transactions in investment real estate. $750 (residential) and $950 (commercial) excluding the deed into trust ($225).
Residential exit trusts (investor sales): For sale of an investment property to a credit-impaired buyer. $750. Warranty deed not included. Read Land Trusts in Texas.
Trust Amendments: Amendments to trusts we have prepared are $275. Amendments to trusts prepared elsewhere may be higher.
Foreclosure and Evictions
Foreclosure Fees. $1,450 for residential and $2,250 commercial (excluding recording fees - usually about $90), paid in two installments. The non-refundable first installment is $650; the balance is due prior to the foreclosure sale. We are currently doing foreclosures in the Houston area only. Suggested reading: our web article Foreclosures in Texas.
If the Borrower Cures the Default. If the Borrower cures the default after we send one or more foreclosure notices but before the foreclosure sale is conducted, there is no refund of the initial fee installment paid.
If the Borrower Files Bankruptcy. Note that last-minute bankruptcy filings can occur which forces the foreclosure process to stop. In such event, this firm will refund only any filing fees that may have been collected (if any) plus $250 as a result of not having to conduct the sale and prepare and file a trustee’s deed with the county clerk. Our representation must then cease as a matter of law since state-level action is stayed. We do not handle bankruptcy (a federal matter) so the client is advised to retain a bankruptcy lawyer for creditor representation going forward. If the foreclosure process commences again at a later date, after dismissal of the bankruptcy, there is no refund of or credit for prior fees paid.
Title Report Prior to Foreclosure. Obtaining a title report is not included in the flat foreclosure fee but is recommended if there is any possibility whatsoever that there is an IRS lien. Note that it is not our standard practice to give notice to the IRS unless the client suspects that there may be an IRS lien and specifically asks us to give such notice. Otherwise, if an IRS lien is present, the IRS will have 120 days following the foreclosure sale to redeem the property.
Evictions. Residential eviction fees are $1,650 (non-jury) and $2,500 (jury); commercial evictions are $2,750 (non-jury) and $3,500 (jury). Excludes filing fees and costs (these begin at around $150). Read our web article entitled Evictions in Texas for details on the process. Eviction appeals to county court are $3,250 (non-jury) and $4,250 (jury) plus costs. Available in the Houston area only.
Representation in Disputed Matters (No Litigation or Pre-Litigation)
Demand, notice, or response letter only. Clients occasionally ask that a legal demand or notice letter be written on their behalf – but only the one letter. In such cases, we will write a formal demand (or response letter, as the case may be) citing applicable law. Fees are $525. The response (if any) from the opposing party will be forwarded to the client, but we are not retained for additional representation or action of any kind, whether in the form of meetings, letters, emails, or phone calls. This is a limited form of representation. The letter is a one-time event, and there is no retainer arrangement or time period during which we are obligated to provide additional services.
Flat-fee retainers. Fees and retainers for representation in disputed, non-litigation matters are determined according to the complexity and likely duration of the case. It is very difficult to fix a universal flat fee for such cases, so for purposes of these Fees & Policies we supply only a likely monetary range. Included are a reasonable number of client conferences, letters, faxes, phone calls, emails, and document preparation (e.g., demand or response letters and follow-up) involved in a diligent attempt to complete the task or settle the dispute with an opposing party or their attorney. A release, settlement agreement, or other document may be needed and is included. No guarantees are made as to the outcome. Filing or defending a lawsuit is not included, nor is mediation, which is an extra flat fee. 60 days - $1,500 to $2,500. 90 days - $2,500 to $5,000, as determined in our discretion based on the circumstances of the case. These are flat-fee non-refundable retainers for which no hourly billing or accounting is made. There is no refund for any alleged “unused” portion. The retainer and our obligation to the client automatically end at the conclusion of the specified time period or when we, in our discretion, declare an impasse. There is a reason for these time limitations. As a general rule, based on our experience, disputes not settled in 60 to 90 days should either be escalated to the level of litigation or abandoned.
Credibility policy on demand letters. As a matter of ethics and professional credibility, we always do exactly what we tell the opposition we will do . . . so we will not write a letter threatening a lawsuit unless the client has pledged to us in advance that he or she is actually willing to back it up with action. A substantial advance retainer deposit may be required as evidence of the client’s ability to follow through. Otherwise, no threat of litigation will be made.
Mediation. Our fees are $850 in advance for attending a half-day mediation. This does not include fees due the mediator (usually $400 to $500). Our fees are not contingent upon the outcome and absolutely no guarantees are made. Either Mr. Willis or a qualified and experienced colleague may attend.
Disputes and suits among family members. If you are involved in a dispute, lawsuit, or a potential lawsuit against a family member, we understand that legitimate grievances may exist. However, as a matter of firm policy, we simply do not handle these sorts of cases.
Affidavits of Adverse Possession
Affidavit explained. Affidavits of Adverse Possession are a creative device for claiming title to property. They are an alternative to filing an expensive court action to establish title. “Adverse possession” refers to circumstances under which one may lawfully lay claim to ownership not originally one’s own. Civil Practices & Remedies Code sections16.021 et seq. sets forth rules and conditions which must be conclusively met in order to establish adverse possession. The affidavit states a person’s claim to title, but it is not in itself a deed to the property. It is designed to allow the adverse possessor to use the filed affidavit to obtain credibility of title over a period of time. This method does not produce instant results and therefore is not suited for persons who want to adversely acquire property and then flip it.
Obtaining a deed to create new chain of title. Another related creative technique is for the adverse possessor to first file an affidavit; then, based on the filed affidavit, deed the property to a friendly third party; and then have that same third party deed the property back to them. These documents all need to be very carefully worded. If done correctly, the result is a deed in the name of the person claiming ownership which begins a new chain of title.
Legal fees. Fees excluding costs are:
Note, however, that fees in this area are by necessity more variable due to individual circumstances. Certain property situations may be so complex and messy that we will simply quote a non-refundable flat fee (usually ranging from $1,500 to $2,500 excluding filing) for the job.
Residential affidavit of adverse possession: beginning at $650
Residential affidavit of adverse possession plus 2 deeds to create new chain of title: $1,200
Residential hybrid adverse possession/heirship affidavit: beginning at $1,150
Online Process. The Affidavit of Heirship/Deed process is handled online without in-office meetings.
Consultation. This is a complicated area. If you do not know if you have a good case for adverse possession, are uncertain of the law, or would like your case evaluated, then a consultation would be the appropriate first step. Fees are $225 (residential) and $275 (commercial). Consult fees are not credited toward any document work that may follow.
A/P affidavit method vs. court action. The affidavit of adverse possession is a relatively inexpensive creative process designed to avoid the greater cost of title litigation which can easily cost $10,000 to $20,000 - or more if contested. We gladly accommodate clients who want to take this approach. However, there is a certain level of risk in the affidavit method. Although we do our best in the preparation of all legal documents, we are unable to guarantee that an affidavit of adverse possession that we prepare will be “approved” by any particular lender or “accepted” by any future title company. Lender policies vary widely. Title companies are individually owned and underwritten and have different procedures and policies which change unpredictably. A lender or title company may be hesitant or require additional documentation. So no ironclad assurances can be made to the client. Although the affidavit method has a high rate of success, particularly over time, if absolute and short-term certainty is required then the client should take the more expensive route of seeking a judicial determination of title (i.e., a lawsuit and a judgment) from a district court.
Legal limitations. We are glad to assist clients who have legitimate cases for adverse possession; however, adverse possession is not an investor strategy or a business plan for accumulating or flipping real estate, and we will not assist prospective clients who engage in this practice. It is illegal and may be subject to criminal prosecution. We suggest you read our web article entitled “Adverse Possession in Texas” for details before proceeding.
Additional Policies Relating to Legal Fees and Costs
Online fees. Fees quoted on this website are for services provided online, supplemented if necessary by phone and fax.
In-office meetings and services. To the extent that these are available, in-office fees are 150% of the corresponding online fee.
Scope of legal fees. All of our flat-fee services are individually priced per item. Costs are never included in quoted fees. Flat fees are strictly limited to the subject item plus reasonable follow-up in the immediate time frame (three calendar days). They do not include legal services not expressly included in the flat fee, supplemental or unrelated document preparation, physical inspection by us of the subject property, travel to rural counties, research in the courthouse, and the like unless express prior arrangements and additional payment are made.
Costs. Legal fees never include costs such as clerk´s filing fees, court reporters, mediators´ fees, overnight delivery, and other costs. A quote for legal fees (even a flat fee) never includes costs and expenses. Clerks´ filing fees, court reporter fees, mediator fees, and the like are always extra. This is true at nearly all law firms. Costs imposed by third parties are beyond our control and subject to change without notice.
Flat fees. Flat fees (as opposed to hourly fees) are an accommodation to the client and are quoted with the understanding that reasonable adjustment may be necessary if there is a substantial increase in legal work due to unforeseen circumstances. Example: the opposing party unexpectedly hires an attorney or for any other reason the paperwork/negotiation/time burden on this office significantly increases beyond that which was anticipated. In other words, a "reasonableness" condition, interpreted in our sole discretion, applies in all flat fee matters. We will not allow flat fees to be abused – this is not a game of “gotcha” - so we reserve the right to determine what is a reasonable scope of work for any flat fee and then, if we consider it necessary, at our sole discretion, (1) increase the fee, (2) convert to an hourly fee of $350 per online hour, or (3) decline the representation and refund the unused portion (if any) of the client’s payment. Refund is exclusively by law firm check mailed by first-class U.S. Mail to a domestic (i.e., United States) address.
Flat Fees - Reasonableness Standard. We offer flat fees strictly as an accommodation to the client but we must maintain a reasonableness standard. Example: a client seeks a residential consultation but then accompanies the request with an overwhelming number of questions and/or many legal or financial documents for us to read and analyze. That is not reasonable at such a low fee level. Another example would be a flat fee representation in which an attorney unexpectedly appears on the other side who then increases the quantity of legal work significantly beyond what we anticipated. There are many possible examples to which our reasonableness standard would apply. Accordingly, we reserve the right to determine what is a reasonable scope of work for any flat fee and then, if we consider it necessary, at our sole discretion, increase the fee, convert to an online hourly fee of $350 per online hour, or decline the representation and refund the unused portion of the client’s payment (if any). The appropriate consultation fee will be deducted from any such refund. Refund is exclusively by law firm check mailed by first-class U.S. Mail to a domestic (i.e., United States) address.
Flat fee accounting. No hourly accounting is ever kept or made in flat-fee matters, and the client has no right to demand one.
Hourly fees. This is a flat-fee office for the most part. When hourly billing is appropriate the online rate is $350 per hour for out-of-court time, $500 per hour for in-office time, $550 per hour for in-court time, and $100 per hour for travel time (one hour minimum each way to the Harris County courthouse).
No contingency fees. We do not accept contingency cases. Such arrangements are usually offered by personal injury attorneys who collect settlements from insurance companies with deep pockets, which is not true of real estate and business lawyers.
Statements. When sent out as quotes or estimates, statements are good for three calendar days only.
Fees for services performed on weekends and holidays. An urgent matter may require you to request services on a weekend or during the holidays. We understand. However, fees increase by 20%.
Fees are non-refundable. Fees, once paid, are entirely non-refundable in nearly all cases. The sole exception is when express advance provision is made in writing (in a written agreement or a clear mutually-agreed email) that funds not fully used in a particular case will result in a partial refund to the client. If a partial retainer refund is due, it will be calculated at our firm’s sole discretion based on our flat fees, our hourly rate, or a combination of both. Refund is exclusively by law firm check mailed by first-class U.S. Mail to a domestic (i.e., United States) address.
Expiration of fees and retainers. Payment of fees and/or a retainer does not result in this law firm being obligated to deliver services indefinitely into the future. For example, online consultations automatically end after three calendar days; documents we provide are also automatically considered final after three calendar days. All retainers, overpayments, or credits to a client´s account must be used within six months or they automatically expire in their entirety, without exception. Certain pre-arranged retainers may be expressly limited to a shorter term. The point is, fee and retainer arrangements are finite and not perpetual in nature.
Fees and retainers not held in trust or escrow.All fee and retainer payments absolutely and unconditionally belong to the attorney immediately upon payment, without exception, ever. There is no requirement whatsoever that such funds be held “in trust” or “in escrow” or deposited in a separate or segregated account. There is no requirement that interest on any such funds be paid to the client. Such funds are stipulated to be current payment for legal services rendered or to be rendered and may be deposited directly into this firm’s operating account. No exceptions, ever.
Timely payment of invoices. Invoices are due upon delivery of the invoice to the client. Payment is officially late ten days after delivery of the invoice or statement. Late payment or non-payment within ten days automatically terminates both the attorney-client relationship and our duty of loyalty and confidentiality. We are automatically relieved of any obligation to continue delivering legal services without notice to or consent from the client. Clients in default may be subject to legal action.
Receipts. Receipt of payment may always take the form of an email acknowledgment that payment has been received. Such an email is an official receipt from this firm. If the client needs a physical receipt, this email should be printed out for the client’s records. Occasionally a client requests a detailed statement in a specified form that satisfies that client’s own internal accounting requirements. We will do so for a $50 charge. v
Forcing us to request payment. We send statements and invoices and expect them to be promptly and discreetly paid, without fuss or delay. It is both uncomfortable and unprofessional for a client to put us in the position of asking for payment of an outstanding invoice. Please do not do this if you wish us to continue to act as your counsel, as it is grounds for our withdrawal.
Disbursements to clients and third parties. In the event there is disbursement due a client or third party, payment will be by law firm check and this office shall have thirty days in which to make that payment.
Client refunds. In the event this firm elects at its discretion to make a full or partial refund of funds to a client, payment will be by law firm check and this office will have thirty days in which to make that payment. The check will be sent by first-class U.S. mail to a domestic (U.S.) address. If the original payment was received by credit, debit, or wire, the refund or disbursement shall be net after deduction of transaction charges such as fees charged by credit/debit card processors. If substantial attorney time has been expended or legal advice given (as determined in our sole discretion) the net refund will be less the appropriate consultation fee. We may, at our discretion, require that the client sign a full and complete release prior to issuance of a refund.
Compare fees. We consider our fees to be reasonable in light of our unique specialties and the availability of fast services online, but we are not a discount law office and make no attempt to compete with the lowest fees in the marketplace. You are encouraged to compare our fees with those charged by other board-certified lawyers with many years’ experience.
Additional Policies Relating to Document Preparation
Document preparation fees. Doc prep fees are for document drafting/correction in the immediate time frame (three calendar days). Asking us to make changes to documents weeks or months later (i.e., after the three calendar-day period expressly allowed for such changes) will incur a new document fee. Doc prep fees do not include additional services (e.g., negotiations with the opposing party of the filing of documents with government offices) beyond actual preparation of the document itself.
Advance payment required for document preparation. Fees for closing documents are payable in advance, not at closing (in other words, we do not take the risk that the transaction will not close) and always exclude filing fees. Our charges are for documents only.
Residential vs. commercial document preparation. Many of our fees vary according to this distinction. “Residential” pertains to one’s personal residence (buying or selling, lien issues, construction defects, and the like) while “commercial” pertains to one’s business, non-homestead investment properties, and investor transactions. The nature of the structure involved (for instance, it may constructed as a single-family residence) is not material to this determination.
In-office closings. Closings in our office are not included in stand-alone document preparation fees since closings are a time consuming service (an hour or more) separate and additional to document preparation. If our contemporaneous input is needed at closing, “conference call closings” are usually a satisfactory alternative, so long as the client has a notary and a copier available on site.
Preparing documents vs. negotiating documents. Flat document preparation fees do not include additional services such as negotiating terms and provisions with other parties or their lawyers. Negotiation is a time-consuming function distinct from merely drawing up a legal document and is a separately charged-for service.
Document preparation fees are not a long-term retainer. Legal advice over time is an extra level of service that is not included in our document preparation fees, which are stand-alone flat fees priced for fast delivery of quality documents. Our responsibility to make corrections and changes automatically concludes three calendar days after delivery, and the documents are considered final. If our advices and services are required over a period of time, we are certainly available for this – but on a retainer basis.
Sending the client to law school. Occasionally, a client will – in addition to requesting a consultation or that we prepare a certain document – also ask that we engage in detailed theoretical discussion of the law. For example, the client may pull apart a trust agreement or an LLC company agreement and request a legal analysis of why each provision was written a certain way vs. the benefits of writing it differently. Other clients will want a comparison of Texas practice to that of other jurisdictions, with citations to relevant cases and statutes. While we are willing to provide a very brief explanation of certain of these matters, we must decline to enter into discussions or debates on legal theory or comparative law. This extra level of service is simply not included in our flat fee system. Flat fees (whether for consultations or document preparation) are designed to be economical stand-alone fees priced for fast delivery of quality documents – without such extra frills. This section overlaps with our “reasonableness” requirement (above) in connection with flat fees. As has been said, we will not allow this firm to be taken advantage of by the flat fee system, which is meant to be an accommodation to the client. If the client wishes to take a different or more extensive approach, our attorney may decline or, at his discretion, convert the arrangement to hourly billing ($350 per hour, two-hour minimum).
Use of the attorney as trustee in real estate documents. Use of the attorney´s name as trustee (e.g., on a deed of trust or a simultaneous conveyance) is not a free service. Acting as trustee can incur significant liability for us by making the attorney a target for litigation (trustees are sued all the time) and an appropriate charge (beginning at $25 for residential deeds of trust) is therefore added to compensate for risk. We may choose to decline to act as trustee in any transaction. We never act as trustee on any client’s land trust. We never act as trustee on any document that is not prepared by this office.
Document preparation on weekends and holidays. Legal documents may be available on weekends and holidays, by request and for an additional fee of 20%. All legal fees increase by 20% in the last 10 days of the calendar year because of the intense rush to complete company formation and other transactions before January 1st. No discounts or credits of any kind are available during this time.
Legal descriptions of real property. It is the client’s responsibility to provide us with a clear legal description (lot and block or metes and bounds). The client may have to enlarge or darken their copy, obtain a clearer copy from the clerk’s office or title company, or take whatever other steps are necessary for us to have an accurate and legible description to work from. At times, it may even be necessary to obtain a new survey so as to have a “clean” exhibit to a document, since clerks may not accept documents with exhibits that cannot be easily read or may affix a notation that the property description is illegible. In fact, we may choose to decline a case if the client is unable to supply legible copies. We do not accept any liability if a client chooses to attach an illegible exhibit or legal description to a document that we prepare.
Additional Policies Relating to Client Review of Documents
Draft documents – client review. We may send drafts of documents to the client to review. It is the client´s responsibility to read these drafts carefully and promptly (within three calendar days) make us aware of specific changes or corrections that need to be made. This is an expected and required level of professional cooperation on the part of the client. If we receive no request for changes or corrections within the three calendar day period, the documents are automatically considered final.
Changes and corrections. We gladly make corrections and reasonable changes within the immediate time frame (three calendar days). This time limitation is necessary, since otherwise we have found clients asking us to make changes months or even years later. After three calendar days, documents we have sent to the client are automatically considered final. Changes desired by the client after that time will incur appropriate additional revision fees.
Major rewrites by the client. Our documents are appropriately customized but nonetheless follow a certain pattern and format. This is taken into account in our flat fee pricing. If the client desires a significant rewrite of a document that departs from our usual format, or requires alterations that amount to more than a few minor changes, then a significantly higher custom document preparation fee would apply or, alternatively, a switch to our hourly billing rate of $350 may be appropriate. Custom drafting services are most definitely available (we do these often) but not at the shelf price. For example, custom LLC company agreements begin at $1,500. Inquire.
Additional Policies Relating to Document Delivery to Clients
Online delivery. We are proud of our ability to deliver quality, customized documents in record time, usually within 24 to 48 business hours of receiving the necessary background information from the client, holidays excluded. Note that there may be occasions when the attorney is traveling, attending a seminar, on vacation, in trial, or otherwise engaged, and we may then not be able to meet this goal. All documents are delivered by email pdf attachment unless otherwise expressly arranged in advance.
Pestering. Our usual process is to deliver documents within 24 to 48 business hours, holidays excluded. We often complete the job sooner. As far as we know, no other quality law office is faster. So recurrent calls or emails from the client asking “Is it done yet?” are not helpful. Please allow us adequate time to do our job. Persistent pestering may result in our stopping work and issuing a refund in an amount that we deem appropriate under the circumstances.
Shipping company books and documents. We usually use UPS and they quite reliably deliver shipments in 2 to 3 days. We retain tracking information for 30 days only. Clients must let us know within the 30-day period if a shipment was not received. Past 30 days, we have no responsibility to track or replace missing shipments.
Additional Policies Relating to the Filing of Documents with Government Offices
Filing of documents that are emailed to clients. When we email real estate documents to a client, the client should execute the document before a notary, make copies for all concerned, and then (if the document is intended to be filed) file the original document in the county clerk´s real property records (there is a modest per-page recording fee that varies by county – check their website). The client may do the filing directly or, alternatively, the document may be returned to us and we will take this extra step. If we are asked to do the filing, add $50 to our fees plus the clerk´s filing fee (usually about $28 - $32 for a deed, more for longer docs). We file documents by first-class mail in the usual course of business unless other prior arrangements are made for expedited delivery. Clients are always responsible for filing documents outside of Texas, except for Nevada LLC documents that we may be asked to file.
Minor clerical errors on documents we have filed or documents received from the printing company. We take reasonable precautions to avoid errors and will of course act to correct major errors, defined as errors that have substantive legal effect. However, it is not our policy to re-file documents with clerks or otherwise incur expenses to correct minor clerical errors (e.g., a missing comma or the like) that have no substantive legal effect. “Substantive legal effect” is defined at our sole discretion.
Errors in document processing by clerks. Clerks vary widely in processing time and occasionally make mistakes. These public offices are underfunded and understaffed. We cannot be responsible for delays, omissions, or errors caused by a county clerk, district clerk, or a secretary of state, and we can never be precise as to the time it will take for a document to be processed in a clerk´s office and the original filed or returned. If it is necessary to take action to correct a clerk’s error or omission, or if a document must be re-filed due to a clerk’s oversight or error, then additional legal fees and costs may apply, and these are the sole responsibility of the client. This firm does not ever absorb such fees and costs.
Additional Policies Relating to Attorney-Client Communications (Including Client Obligations)
Clients agree to use email whenever possible to avoid phone tag. Good attorney-client communication is essential. Clients agree to check their email at least once daily while we are working together. This includes checking the spam folder. If our emails to a client persistently bounce back, then the client will be asked to supply a different email address. If the client does not do so, services will terminate without refund.
Clients who ask us to communicate with them using multiple email addresses. We do not do this because (1) we have many clients with whom we are exchanging emails at any given moment, a number of them in different time zones, and it is difficult for us to remember individual home emails, work emails, spousal emails, travel emails, and the various local times at which these are to be used; and (2) using multiple email addresses breaks the email thread which we rely upon to insure the continuity of our discussions concerning your case. Kindly choose an email address you wish us to use and stick to it.
Clients are advised read our applicable legal article(s). Client education is vital and it is part of the client’s obligation to be fully informed on his or her case. We strongly suggest that clients read our web article(s) applicable to their issues prior to engaging our firm. This ensures we have delivered maximum relevant information to the client. By hiring us, the client certifies that he or she has first read this information.
“Immediate time frame.” We include questions, follow up, and changes/corrections with a number of our legal services (including consultations, APRs, and doc prep) within the immediate time frame, defined to be 3 calendar days and no longer. After that, payment of an appropriate additional fee is required. If one were to visit an attorney in his or her office, one would have that 50 minute period in which to ask questions, and no more . . . so we consider our 3 day Q&A policy to be exceedingly reasonable. No exceptions.
Client-provided summaries. To save time and ensure accuracy we may ask that a client organize information and summarize a list of items – for instance, a list of overdue note payments with due dates, or a list of street addresses matched with lot and block descriptions of real property. This is part of the client’s responsibility and is an expected level of professional cooperation. Failure to cooperate in this manner may result in termination of legal services without refund.
Inquiries on behalf of others. We occasionally receive inquiries from persons who are asking about the legal situation of another. For liability/confidentiality reasons, we prefer to deal directly with potential clients, so we may respectfully decline to respond to such an inquiry.
Additional Policies Relating to Meetings, Court Dates, and Scheduling
In-office meetings and services. To the extent that these are available, fees are 150% of the corresponding online fee.
Court dates. Court dates do not go onto the attorney´s calendar unless and until a retainer deposit is received and the attorney expressly confirms that he or an associate will be present. Never assume that an attorney will appear on your behalf, merely because you have informed him that a court date is approaching, unless this has been expressly confirmed in advance. The attorney is under no obligation to appear unless retained and paid in advance specifically for that purpose.
“Meet and Greets.” We occasionally receive requests for an old-fashioned free "meet and greet" or “interview” – either in person or by phone – in order for a prospective client to determine if this is the law office best suited to his or her needs. Regretfully, time limitations and the demands of our existing clients do not allow us to include such free discussions in our business model. We view them as paid consultations. No free attorney time – online, on the telephone, or in-office - is offered.
Associated attorneys. In the event of a scheduling conflict, at our discretion, a qualified associated attorney may appear in court, at a foreclosure, a mediation, or other similar matter in place of Mr. Willis, without notice to or consent from the client or a reduction in fee.
Christmas/New Year holidays. This is a busy time for doc prep and entity formation since many clients want to complete transactions or establish companies by the first of the year. The Secretary of State´s office (always understaffed) is backed up during the holidays. The printing company that produces our company books is swamped. U.S. Mail and UPS are slow. We may be working during part of this period, but patience is required. All legal fees increase by 20% in the last 10 days of the calendar year because of the intense rush to complete transactions before January 1st. No discounts or credits of any kind are available during this time.
Additional Policies Relating to Real Estate Brokerage Services
Real estate brokerage services. Before engaging this firm in a real estate brokerage capacity we ask that you first read "Information about Brokerage Services" (a required notice) which is available at the TREC website: http://www.trec.state.tx.us/pdf/contracts/OP-K.pdf.
Additional Policies Relating to Title Companies and Lenders
Title insurance and title reports. This office is not affiliated with a title company and does not offer title reports or title insurance. However, a title search is easily obtained but is not included in the fee for preparing a warranty deed or closing a transaction. Such a fee is paid directly to the title company or title researcher. All buyers of real estate are advised to perform thorough due diligence which includes checking the status of title and property taxes. Similarly, all clients foreclosing on real property are encouraged to obtain a title report to determine if there is an IRS lien (we do not automatically do this). We are happy to review title commitments for the applicable consultation fee.
No responsibility for title company actions. Although regulated by the State Board of Insurance, title companies are independently owned and underwritten. They can be demanding, arbitrary, and even whimsical about what they require or approve. Our documents are always legally effective, but we make no guarantees concerning any particular title company´s preferences, demands, or underwriting approval. Complying with such demands incur additional fees. For creative transactions, it is occasionally necessary to "shop" title companies.
No responsibility for lender actions or loan approval. Nearly all lenders have become more difficult to deal with since 2008. They can be demanding, arbitrary, and even whimsical about what they require or approve. Our documents are always legally effective, but we make no assurances or guarantees concerning any particular lender’s requirements or underwriting policies. In particular, we do not guarantee that a client will be able to open a depository account or get loan approval from any particular lender. It is occasionally necessary to "shop" lenders in order to find one that is friendly to your business structure and strategy. This is part of a client’s professional due diligence obligation with respect to his or her own business. It is not our law firm’s responsibility.
Additional Policies Relating to Limitations on Advice and Services We Offer
No tax, accounting, or bookkeeping advice. Mr. Willis is not a CPA. We are not tax advisors or tax return preparers. We give no tax, accounting, or bookkeeping advice at all. Any comments we make concerning such matters, particularly federal or state taxation, are intended to be general in nature. No statements made in our discussions concerning taxes or accounting may be relied upon by any particular client in any particular case. All clients are encouraged to have an experienced CPA who should be consulted every time there are potential tax and accounting consequences. Also: we do not send reminders at tax time.
1031 Exchanges. We prepare real estate transfer documents of all kinds. Our documents are not specific to 1031 exchanges - in other words, there are no clauses in the documents which refer to section 1031 provisions or compliance. For example, if the subject transaction is a wraparound, then the documents we produce are our customary wrap documents. In our view, the 1031 aspect is entirely dealt with on the accounting side and with the client’s retirement fund manager.
No technical insurance advice. We are not insurance advisers. Any comments made by us concerning insurance are intended to be general in nature. No statements made in our discussions concerning insurance may be relied upon by any particular client in any particular case. All clients are encouraged to have a good insurance agent or broker who should be consulted every time there are potential insurance or coverage issues.
Document review/comment - limitations. We gladly review and comment on legal documents prepared by other professionals (attorneys and realtors) for the usual review fee. We are occasionally asked to review out-of-state forms or investment seminar forms for their validity in Texas. We are willing to do a legal validity review, but it is not part of our practice to then modify such forms to make them compliant with Texas law, so we respectfully decline to do this. In particular, we do not “fix” out of state guru/mentor documents, most of which fail to comply with Texas law. We do not want the liability of even attempting to do that. This firm has its own proven, sophisticated, customizable formats for Texas real estate and business documents that have evolved over the years. Finally, we do not attempt to comment on homegrown/do-it-yourself documents (they are just too far out of the box – we´ve even seen one scribbled on a napkin).
Additional Policies Relating to the Types of Cases We Accept
Our discretion. Whether we accept a case or client is entirely at the discretion of this firm.
Do-it-yourselfers. We occasionally receive requests from persons who want assistance doing their own legal work. We regret that we cannot include such services as part of our business model.
Half-finished cases. We occasionally receive requests to assume responsibility for a case that someone has been working on themselves pro se (without a lawyer). Because of the number of lawsuits against attorneys, we decline to assume professional liability for what a client did or did not do while the client was attempting to handle a legal matter without a lawyer. This is particularly true in lawsuits, evictions, and foreclosures where timing and content of notices and pleadings are critical. We respectfully refuse such cases unless we are able to re-start the process from the beginning for at (at least) the full fee.
Additional Policies Relating to “No Guarantees”
Outcome guarantees. This office never issues guarantees of any kind at any time concerning the outcome of proposed transactions, entity formation, legal disputes, or litigation. Ever. The client´s obligation to pay fees is never contingent upon the outcome.
Filing guarantees. No guarantee is ever made that a government office will accept any particular document for filing. In particular, Texas has 254 county clerks, each of whom is free to reject the filing of a document for almost any reason.
Closing guarantees. We prepare closing documents, we do not guarantee that any particular transaction will close and fund. No refunds for document preparation fees are made if a transaction fails to close for any reason.
Guarantees of title company approval for creative documents. Although we prepare such documents as affidavits of heirship, affidavits of adverse possession, and the like, these are creative approaches utilized in lieu of more expensive and more certain court remedies. Title companies are individually owned and underwritten and have different policies and procedures that change over time, so we are unable to make guarantees that any particular title company will “accept” a creative document that we have prepared. Additional curative work may be required and if so, it will be at the client’s expense.
Bank account guarantees. No guarantee is ever made that a client or a client’s entity will be permitted to establish a depository account at any particular bank. Bank policies vary widely and we are not responsible for these.
Loan guarantees. This firm does not make any assurances that you or your entity will be able to get a loan from any particular lender. Ever. Any alleged representations and warranties as to a client’s ability to get a loan are expressly disclaimed.
Casualty insurance. This firm does not guarantee that any real property owned or acquired by a client will be insurable against loss or damage.
Appraisal districts. There are 254 appraisal districts in Texas, all with their own independent policies and procedures. We make no guarantees or assurances whatsoever that an appraisal district will (for example) grant a homestead exemption or take any other action in any particular case or circumstance. We may prepare documents in support of a client’s efforts in this area, but the outcome is never guaranteed.
Additional Policies relating to Intellectual Property
The documents we prepare are our intellectual property. Our firm retains sole and exclusive intellectual property rights to the creative and unique documents we produce.Accordingly, all documents produced by this office are proprietary and licensed to the client for use in a particular circumstance or transaction only. They are not sold. The client does not purchase ownership of our documents or the right to use them in other circumstances or transactions. Our documents may not be reproduced or re-used in any manner without our prior written permission.
No editable versions provided. With the sole exception of the limited number of “investor templates” listed above, our documents are supplied to the client only in PDF format, not in Word or WordPerfect. This is for intellectual property reasons and also to reduce our professional liability as a consequence of unintended re-use. Please do not ask for editable forms or templates.
No “returns.” Because the content of our documentation is creative and proprietary, there is no “return” once our documents are delivered. No exceptions.
Penalties. Violation of this section on intellectual property automatically terminates the attorney-client relationship and our duty of loyalty to the client, who then becomes an adverse party. This firm will take every reasonable and necessary step to prevent theft of its intellectual property, including filing suit. It is agreed that this firm is entitled to injunctive relief and liquidated damages in the amount of $1,000 per day in any such case.
Additional Policies Relating to Record Keeping
File retention policy. We disclaim any responsibility for keeping any files (hard copy or electronic) for any minimum or specific period. In accordance with the Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act, hard-copy client files are shredded before disposal.
The client’s file. Clients receive copies of all documents and correspondence pertaining to their case as the case progresses. This is the client´s file. Keeping these copies and maintaining them in an orderly manner is the client´s responsibility. Our file (both hard copy and electronic) remains the property of this office and may be disposed of or deleted at any time without consent of or notice to the client. Reproduction of our file, if we still have it, will incur a $150 fee.
Original documents. We never retain original documents. Ever. Our files contain only electronic copies of unexecuted documents. The client agrees and stipulates that this is the total extent of our record keeping obligation and that nothing further or more extensive on our part is expected or required. It is not necessary to send us copies of your fully executed documents.
Holding documents or company books for pick-up at indefinite later time. We are unable to act as a storage facility for original documents or items. Accordingly, it is our policy to promptly prepare documents and company books and then promptly email or ship them out.
Data loss or breach. The retention and protection of electronic records remains an imperfect science, and both data loss and breach of data (hacking) may occasionally occur, particularly since this firm has a significant internet presence. We are mindful of this and take reasonable precautions to prevent data loss and/or breach of confidential records; however, we make no guarantees that such events will not occur. We are not a technology company and do not have the resources or ability to maintain ultra-secure systems. Clients expressly accept the risks and realities involved in online communications. All clients hold us entirely harmless in the event of data loss or breach.
Additional Policies Relating to Litigation
Increasing costs are a fact of life in the court system. The costs of litigation have doubled in the last ten years – for everyone, including the attorneys involved. Because of this and for ethical reasons, only quality cases with legal merit are accepted. In other words, any case we accept must present both clear liability on the part of the defendant and real monetary damages in excess of $25,000. Our office has additional requirements:
1. We will never threaten a lawsuit in a demand letter unless the client has posted a substantial retainer in our trust account. This is our credibility policy.
2. We will never file a suit that is frivolous or in furtherance of illegal or unjust ends.
3. It is our firm´s policy never to file suits among family members. Life is too short.
4. We will never file a lawsuit unless the client has proven to us in advance that he or she has the liquid financial resources to prosecute the suit at a sophisticated level through trial. A bank statement or other evidence of available funds is required.
Justice Court. For smaller cases, we may assist a client in preparing his or her own case to present pro se (without a lawyer) in Justice Court where the jurisdictional limit is $10,000 and attorneys are not required.
Hourly rates. As to hourly rates, we quote two rates: one for out-of-court time, the other for in-court time, although we may agree instead to a series of flat fee installments. Travel time is separately billed. Contingency fee arrangements are not available.
Retainers – filing or answering a suit. Retainer amounts are as follows:
1. Initial retainer for filing suit. The initial non-refundable retainer for commencing litigation as a plaintiff in a non-TRO case is $7,500. Expect to pay additional retainer installments as the case progresses. A copy of a bank or brokerage statement showing at least $15,000 in liquid funds for future billings is required. If you do not have these resources, then the hard truth is that you cannot afford to litigate.
2. Initial retainer for answering a suit. The initial non-refundable retainer for lawsuit defense is usually $7,500 in a non-TRO case (unless the client wishes to file a counterclaim, in which case the retainer is increased by $1,000) plus a stipulated $500 in costs for a total of $9,000. Expect to pay additional retainer installments as the case progresses. A copy of a bank or brokerage statement showing additional liquid financial resources for future billings is required.
Litigation retainers. Retainers are intended to be initial, lump sum payments and may not be paid in installments. Retainers are always non-refundable. In complex cases involving numerous parties, the initial retainer and cost deposit may be greater. Included in the non-refundable initial retainer are detailed preliminary pleadings, a first round of written discovery requests and/or responses, a half-day mediation if ordered by the court, and settlement negotiations and documents. No hourly accounting is made for these flat-fee items. Once completed, additional retainer installments will be required if legal representation is to continue. For detail on the litigation process, and as a prerequisite to hiring us, please read our article Litigation in Texas.
Client Misrepresentation, Default, or Illegality
When a client break his or her word. This firm strives to uphold traditional Texas values including the idea that one’s word is one’s bond. When a client breaks his or her word with regard to payment of fees or costs or performance of the client’s obligations, this is not only a contractual breach it may also be a criminal offense (e.g., theft of services). If this occurs, we may immediately terminate the attorney-client relationship and cease providing services. If there is a positive balance in the client’s account, the attorney may in his sole discretion unilaterally determine an equitable accounting and issue an appropriate refund if warranted. In cases where there is a negative balance, the former client becomes an adverse party and it is our policy to rigorously pursue all legal remedies to the maximum extent of the law.
Client misrepresentation of a case. It is rare but occasionally a prospective client will misrepresent the facts and complexities of a case in order to seek and “lock in” a low flat fee - and then later attempt to hold this firm to the quoted fee when undisclosed issues come to light. If intentional, this is bad faith conduct and cause for immediate attorney withdrawal. In the event of withdrawal, the attorney may in his sole discretion unilaterally determine an equitable accounting and issue an appropriate refund if warranted.
Attorney withdrawal. The attorney may immediately withdraw from a case and close the file if fees are not timely paid; if the client materially fails to follow this firm’s published policies; if the attorney and client have a substantive disagreement concerning case strategy or methods; if the attorney determines that the client’s conduct or proposed conduct is unlawful; if the client engages in material misrepresentation or fraudulent conduct; or if a client is rude, unprofessional, unreasonably demanding, belligerent, abusive, or uncooperative. In the event of withdrawal, the attorney may in his discretion determine the value of services rendered to date and, if appropriate (as determined in our sole discretion), issue a partial refund to the client.
Exception to attorney-client confidentiality. This firm is under no obligation to maintain client loyalty or confidentiality in the event a client commits an illegal, unethical, or wrongful act against this firm (e.g., writing us a bad check or committing chargeback fraud). This is an exception to our usual strict policy in such matters. The attorney-client relationship will automatically terminate if this occurs. In such cases, the former client becomes an adverse party and it is our policy to rigorously pursue all legal remedies to the maximum extent of the law.
NSF checks, payments declined for any reason, or chargebacks. This office has a zero tolerance policy for theft of legal services, a criminal offense, which will result in immediate termination of representation without refund. This is an exception to our usual strict policy in such matters. The attorney-client relationship will automatically terminate if the client commits such a crime against this firm. In such cases, the former client becomes an adverse party and it is our policy to rigorously pursue all legal remedies to the maximum extent of the law.
Chargeback fraud. This is the credit card equivalent of wrongfully stopping payment on a check. It is a criminal offense. In such event, this firm is entirely relieved of any obligation to maintain client loyalty or confidentiality. This is an exception to our usual strict policy in such matters. The attorney-client relationship will automatically terminate if the client commits such a crime against this firm. In such cases, the former client becomes an adverse party and it is our policy to rigorously pursue all legal remedies to the maximum extent of the law.
Client defamation. This firm is under no obligation to maintain client loyalty or confidentiality in the event a client states or publishes a falsehood regarding our professional abilities or services (libel or slander), whether on the internet or otherwise. This is an exception to our usual strict policy in such matters. The attorney-client relationship will automatically terminate if this occurs. In such cases, the former client becomes an adverse party and it is our policy to rigorously pursue all legal remedies for libel and slander, to the maximum extent of the law.
Payment failure – entity formation. If a client’s payment for LLC formation is not fully made or fails for any reason, then the client’s entitlement to or ownership of the entity formed will, at our election and sole discretion, be entirely forfeited and terminated, and this firm may either (1) dissolve the new entity; (2) take possession, control, and ownership of the entity and either sell or retain same for our own purposes; and/or (3) unilaterally amend the entity’s Certificate of Formation (TX) or Articles of Organization (NV) in any manner we see fit, all without notice to or consent from the client whose payment failed or was not made or properly completed.
Accounting in the case of defaulting clients. If a client defaults on a fee/services agreement, and if an accounting is to be rendered as to funds paid vs. services rendered and any costs incurred, then the attorney may use his judgment and sole discretion in allocating whatever payment(s) have been made, first to costs incurred on behalf of the client, and then to the services that this firm has rendered.
Our Right of Offset. If a client is delinquent on an unpaid invoice, then the attorney may, using his sole judgment and discretion, offset the amount of the unpaid invoice against fees previously paid by that client (even if those fees were paid in connection with a separate file or case) in order to arrive at a net amount due either the client or this firm.
Failure to pay taxes on companies formed by this office. If state and/or federal taxes are not timely paid on companies we have formed, Mr. Willis may resign as registered agent (if he is serving as such) and the client expressly grants permission for us to disclose the client´s identity and address to the state authorities. This is an exception to our usual strict policy of loyalty and confidentiality. We will not participate or assist in illegal conduct or incur potential liability for a client’s unlawful, unethical, negligent, or wrongful conduct. In particular, we will not tolerate aggressive collectors from the Texas Comptroller’s office demanding that we pay a client’s taxes.
Client fraud, illegality, or tax evasion. This office advises clients on legitimate real estate transactions and asset protection. If it is determined (in our sole discretion) that a client is engaging in unlawful activities, representation will be immediately terminated without refund and this office will provide any information or documents that may be requested by the proper authorities. This is an express exception to our usual strict loyalty and confidentiality policy. We will not participate or assist in illegal, unethical, negligent, or wrongful conduct by a client, nor will we subject ourselves to potential liability for a client´s illegal, unethical, negligent, or wrongful acts. In particular, we will not tolerate the authorities alleging that we are a co-conspirator with the client in such acts.
Claims or Litigation involving this Firm
Obligation to mediate in good faith. If a client presents a claim, grievance, dispute, or cause of action against this law firm, then, prior to resorting to litigation or the filing of a complaint with any governmental or administrative agency: (a) the parties agree to negotiate in good faith in an effort to resolve the dispute; (b) if the dispute is not settled through negotiation, then the parties agree to mediate in good faith as follows: (1) mediation shall be for one-half day in Harris County, Texas; (2) each party shall each bear that party’s own fees, costs and expenses through the mediation and any follow-up work that may be required. If suit is filed without having first submitted the dispute to mediation, the parties agree that said suit shall be abated pending completion of mediation. Texas law applies. There shall be no requirement that a claim made by this firm against a client be mediated prior to filing of suit.
Suits against this firm. Venue for any suit by a client against this firm is exclusively in Harris County, Texas. Trial by jury is waived in favor of trial before the court. Recoverable damages are limited to actual, tangible damages. Damages for mental anguish and exemplary damages are entirely and unconditionally waived. Judgments obtained shall bear zero percent interest.
Suits against a client. In any litigation brought by this firm against a client, we may present a claim for any and all relief and causes of action permitted at law and equity, including but not limited to a claim for all net unpaid legal fees; unreimbursed costs incurred on the client’s behalf; general and special damages of any kind of which the client was a producing cause; exemplary damages to the extent allowed by law or these terms of service; and a request for equitable (injunctive) relief, both temporary and permanent. Any such claim may be presented as a sworn account. It is expressly agreed that venue for any legal action by this firm against a client may be in the county of the client’s domicile; the county in which the client’s principal business office is located; or in Harris County, Texas. Choice of venue among these alternatives shall be entirely and solely at our discretion. A judgments obtained against a client shall bear 10.00% percent interest. The foregoing are material provisions of our terms of service without which this firm would decline to represent any client.
Email Professionalism: Things to Avoid
Chatting. Occasionally, clients or potential clients misunderstand this firm’s role in the online marketplace and seek to utilize us as a free legal chat site. In spite of our significant online presence and our determination to supply an unprecedented amount of free information (by means of our website articles), we remain a business that sells legal advice, documents, and services, so – beyond making preliminary comments – we respectfully decline to engage in prolonged back-and-forth communications on an unpaid basis.
Dribbling. Many clients use handheld devices rather than keyboards and find it convenient to send us multiple short or fragmented bursts of information, often over a period of days or weeks. Occasionally these communications come from more than email address. This can make our job difficult since we receive many emails each day. To make matters worse, some devices are notorious for dropping text attachments and may not provide an email thread, so we can find ourselves at a loss as to context. Our conclusion? Real estate law is serious business and should probably not be conducted entirely by portable device or from multiple sources and addresses. Please take the time to get to a computer so we can communicate professionally. Send one or two comprehensive instructional emails with all relevant attachments that make it clear what we are being asked to do or what documents we are being asked to prepare. Then make payment. We will respond promptly.
Maintain the Thread. We receive as many as fifty emails per day. Our goal is to be as responsive and thorough as possible; however, this becomes a challenge when we receive an email relating to a pending file that has no thread behind it that we can review for context. We get a lot of these. Often they are signed “Bob.” Time is lost because we have to write back and ask “Who is this?” or “What file does this pertain to?” which is inefficient and embarrassing for everyone. Never assume that the recipient of your communications has psychic ability.
Cloak & Dagger. This occurs when we receive emails that are not addressed to a specific person and are unsigned. It is important for confidentiality reasons, particularly in a law office, to know by whom an email is sent and to whom it is directed. Accordingly, cloak & dagger is unacceptable in a business email.
Looping. This occurs when a client decides to include our firm (unwillingly) in the loop with all other persons who may have an interest in a particular transaction. The result is that we are copied on multiple emails from persons we do not know. Please do not do this without our express permission.
Bombardment. This is when a client engages us for a consultation or APR and then overwhelms us with an excessive quantity of emails, attachments, and unnecessary information wholly beyond and out of proportion to the scope of the consultation. Please keep our reasonableness requirement in mind and refrain from this.
Shouting. Sending an email in all capital letters is universally considered rude and the equivalent of shouting. Underlining your entire email or coloring it all in red falls into this category as well.
TextTalk. Business email is held to a higher standard of professionalism than personal email or texting. Correct spelling and grammar are advised. Never use TextTalk abbreviations (e.g., “ur” for “your”) or other digital slang in business communications.
Rambling. A business email should get to the point and generally not exceed around 200 words. It should be broken into discrete paragraphs to enhance readability. If more content needs to be transmitted, it should generally be done in the form of an attachment.
Center of the Universe. Professional offices often encounter clients who send emails as if that client were the only person communicating with the firm by email – when in fact businesses receive dozens of emails per day. “Center of the Universe” emails are often unaddressed, unsigned, vague as to content, separated by days or weeks (or even months!), and devoid of an email thread to which the firm can refer – all adding up to unrealistic and unreasonable assumptions on the part of the sender that (1) the firm has no one else to communicate with; and (2) we have been keeping the sender’s case first and foremost in our thoughts since their last email a week or a month or a year ago; and (3) we have nothing better to do than go back and search through hundreds of emails in order to see what the inquirer is talking about. Our new policy is simply not to respond.
ALL FEES QUOTED ON THIS SITE ARE GENERAL GUIDELINES ONLY AND ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE AT ANY TIME WITHOUT NOTICE AND WITHOUT REQUIREMENT THAT SUCH CHANGE BE FIRST POSTED ON THE WEBSITE. FEES MAY ALSO VARY DUE TO UNUSUAL COMPLEXITIES OR RISKS INVOLVED IN PARTICULAR CASES. THIS OFFICE DOES NOT REPRESENT YOU UNLESS WE EXPRESSLY AGREE TO DO SO IN WRITING AND WE HAVE RECEIVED AND ACCEPTED PAYMENT. UNTIL THEN, WE WILL RESPECT YOUR CONFIDENTIALITY BUT NO FORMAL ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP IS CREATED AND WE HAVE NO OBLIGATIONS TO YOU OR YOUR CASE.