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Agreement to exchange things is enforceable

Richard M.  Alderman Interim Dean of the Law Center

Richard M. Alderman
Interim Dean of the Law Center

Q. My friend and I agreed that if he would give me a lawn mower he wasn’t using, I would give him my bicycle. Right after he agreed I brought him the bike. He told me he had to make a small repair to the mower and would then bring it over. Now he refuses to give me the mower or return my bike. What can I do? He says I am out of luck.
A. Under the law, a contract is formed when there is “bargained for exchanged.” For example, when you agree to buy something the exchange is you will give someone money and he agrees to give you the goods.
In your case, the exchange you agreed to is also considered a binding contract. This type of agreement, exchanging one thing for another, is know as “barter,” and is just as enforceable as any exchange to pay money for a good. I suggest you let him know that you believe you have a contract and expect he will live up to his half of the bargain. If he does not return the bike or give you the mower, you can file a claim in justice court to collect what it will cost you to purchase what he promised to give you.
Q We just moved here from Indiana. My wife and I have simple wills prepared by an Indiana attorney. Are our wills still valid in Texas?
A. Your will may or may not be valid, depending on whether it complies with Texas law. Even if valid, however, it may not have the same effect in Texas because of the difference in state laws. For example, Texas is a community property law state and Indiana is not. My suggestion is to simply get a new will prepared in Texas. Shop around and you should be able to find an attorney that prepares a simple will for a very reasonable fee.
Q. I have a hospital bill I was paying off when I lost my job. I couldn’t pay for several months. I now have another job and want to start paying again. The hospital told me that it expects payment in full and will no longer accept partial payments, and will sue if I don’t pay. Doesn’t the hospital have to accept my payments?
A. Under the law, no creditor is required to work with you to arrange a payment plan. The creditor may demand payment in full and refuse to accept anything less. Having said that, most creditors will accept what you can afford to pay. Creditors simply want to be paid and they know that suing in Texas usually doesn’t help. To see what can happen if you are sued, look at the debt collection section on my website, www.peopleslawyer.net.
I suggest you speak with the hospital, explain your financial situation, and let them know you are again able to make regular payments. My guess is that they may try to get you to pay more but ultimately will accept what you can afford.
Q. I have a life insurance policy and an IRA account with named beneficiaries. I also have a will. I have been told that when I die my will controls the distribution of these assets and that the will controls over my designations. Is this correct?
A. It is not correct. The beneficiaries of a will inherit only the property owner by the deceased at death. If the deceased has named beneficiaries in assets such as a life insurance policy or IRA, those funds pass at death pursuant to their terms, and are not considered part of the estate dealt with by the will. In other words, the life insurance and IRA proceeds will be distributed to the named beneficiaries, no matter what the will says.

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