Q: I have hired an electrician to work at my home. He started work but never finished it. He stopped responding to me and ended up owing me $ 5,500. I sued him in a minor court. He did not file a response to the lawsuit, so I obtained a default judgment against him. That was four years ago and I haven’t heard from him since. What exactly was my judgment good?

ON: The judgment you received was essentially worthless.

As you have learned, collecting from a Texas debtor can be extremely difficult. Laws in our state go very far to protect people from companies and individuals (like you) trying to collect money owed them.

Over the years I have written long, detailed answers explaining how to make judgment. You can also find this out very easily on the Internet. Just search for How To Get A Judgment In Texas.

In your case, there is a small chance that you might take further steps, but it sounds like you are wasting your time.

Q: I want to be sure that my affairs are in order. I have a will, a power of attorney, a medical power of attorney and instructions for doctors. All of my financial accounts have beneficiaries that are intended for direct payout. One of my children has a separate power of attorney with my financial advisor’s office. Is there anything I may have missed? Should I also add one of my children to my checking account to sign checks if I can’t, or does the Power of Attorney cover it?

ON: They didn’t mention whether you’ve properly identified your beneficiaries on your retirement accounts, annuities, and life insurance policies, if any, so be sure to double-check those points too.

If you do business with financial institutions other than the one your financial advisor works for, you should contact each of them to see if they also have their own internal powers of attorney for one or more of your children.

As for your checking account, your power of attorney should work, but it’s much easier for one of your children to pay bills for you when it’s already in the account. Just make sure the child is only set up as a convenience signer as the account would go completely to that one child if it was a survival account.

You should also let your children know where to find all of your usernames and passwords after you die.

Q: We keep getting urgent letters from the United States Census Bureau. How do we know who they are really from?

ON: Check the return address on the envelope. You should see either the US Census Bureau or the US Department of Commerce, and you should see the city of Jeffersonville, Ind.

You can also call the regional office at 800-852-6159 to see if the letter is legitimate.

The information in this column is intended to convey a general understanding of the law, not legal advice. Readers with legal problems, including those whose issues are addressed here, should consult lawyers about their particular situation. Ronald Lipman of Lipman & Associates law firm in Houston is certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in estate planning and estate law. Email questions to stateyourcase@lipmanpc.com.