The Basics of the Probate Process

When someone passes away, family members can be overcome with grief, especially if the death is sudden or unexpected. It can be difficult to function, made even more so because there are so many things that must be handled after a loved one dies.

If a person has taken the right steps to provide for their family, then they will have some sort of estate plan in place. At the very least, this will include a will or a living trust, as well as a durable plan of attorney and a medical power of attorney document.

Without a living trust in place, which allows for the easy transfer of assets from a decedent to his or her heirs, an estate will need to go through the probate process. This is a legal process that ensures a person’s assets are disbursed properly to creditors and heirs in accordance with the person’s wishes.

The Steps Involved in Probate

After an executor for the estate has been identified, they will begin the process of going through probate in Arlington. An executor is often a family member or trusted friend, or it can be an attorney, all of whom have a solemn duty to do the probate work in a timely and impartial manner.

Specifically, there are many steps that an executor will need to take during probate:

  • Identify and secure the assets of the estate
  • Work with life insurance companies to make sure that policies are paid
  • Pay all bills and debts of the estate
  • Prep and file tax documents required by the probate court
  • Resolve any other tax issues
  • Determine if estate or inheritance taxes are due
  • Determine which heirs will receive which of the estate’s assets
  • Transfer those assets to the appropriate beneficiaries
  • Fairly and equitably disburse remaining assets in accordance with the decedent’s wishes

All of these issues are made much easier when a will exists. However, in those cases where there is no will, beneficiaries may dispute how the disbursement of assets are being handled. When this happens, one or more of the beneficiaries may seek settlement through litigation. While this is unfortunate, it actually can be quite common. Under these circumstances, the best bet may be to hire an estate attorney and attempt to mediate the issues, instead of relying on litigation and letting a court decide instead.

The Hixson Law Firm serves clients in Mansfield, Arlington, Grand Prairie and other nearby Texas communities.

johnlaw_admin Mar 07, 2018 Comments (0)

Why You Should Designate a Power of Attorney

Life throws us many unexpected challenges, and sometimes, those challenges leave us unable to make important decisions about our own health and well being. Rather than be put at the mercy of strangers in the court system, or medical professionals, it simply makes good sense to appoint a power of attorney who can manage your various affairs if you become incapacitated for any reason.

You can designate anyone you trust to act as a power of attorney, including a friend, a relative, or an actual attorney. The power of attorney lasts until you pass away or you make changes that cancel the terms of the agreement.

There Are Many Types of Power of Attorney Agreements

You should be aware that there are many different types of power of attorney agreements. Each designates certain legal boundaries that the power of attorney designee can perform on your behalf.

A general power of attorney gives sweeping powers to the person you select. This allows them to handle all of your financial and business affairs, pay bills, settle claims, make business decisions, and retain the services of others to help manage your affairs until you are able to do so, or you pass away. In some instances, a General Power of Attorney will also cover any health care decisions that need to be made on your behalf as well.

A durable power of attorney is an agreement that is already in place that allows agents to act on the principal’s behalf before they become incapacitated, handling predefined tasks. The agreement allows the agent to also keep acting on a person’s behalf after they become unable to handle their own affairs, possibly changing the scope of the powers to meet more broadly defined concerns. For a durable power of attorney in Arlington to go into effect, it’s best to specify that you will want a doctor to certify that you are no longer competent to manage your own affairs.

A health care power of attorney gives your agent the authority only to make decisions regarding medical care on your behalf if you are physically or mentally unable to do so on your own. This is different than an advanced health care directive, but when combined, the two will spell out very specific directions for crucial medical decisions.

Just as a Health Care Power of Attorney is limited in scope, so to is a financial power of attorney. This limits your agent to make financial decisions on your behalf, including paying mortgages and other bills, managing your investments, and protecting any and all of your business interests.

The Hixson Law Firm serves clients in Mansfield, Arlington, Grand Prairie and other nearby Texas communities.

johnlaw_admin Feb 28, 2018 Comments (0)

Using Mechanics Law to Collect on Unpaid Debts

There are instances when property owners fail to pay contractors, subcontractors, construction workers, and others in related trades after work has been completed on a property. Rather than stop work on a project, tear down what they have already done, or seek other kinds of remedies, members of the building trades can rely on Mechanics Law in Arlington. Also known as a mechanic’s lien or a materialmen’s lien, this powerful legal device gives workers the ability to file a lien against a property to compel an owner to make good on what they owe the workers.

When a lien is filed, information about the debt becomes public record, but there are many more actions that are activated.

What Happens When a Mechanic’s Lien Is Filed

A mechanic’s lien covers almost all labor, materials, supplies, and equipment involved in making improvements to real property. The lien can be filed before the project begins, and removed after all payments have been made. It also can be filed as a way to get paid for work already done. For people in the building trades, a mechanic’s lien is often the least expensive and most effective option way to get paid.

A lien carries the threat of foreclosure with it. In extreme cases, a creditor can file a lawsuit that can force the sale of the property with proceeds from the sale then being used to satisfy the debt. Most property owners would much rather pay the lien that have their property foreclosed.

Because liens are public documents, they can create a cloud on the title. In turn, this means a property owner could have trouble either refinancing or selling the property until the lien is satisfied. It is not unusual to have several liens filed against the same property, and in those cases, the law determines in which order each lien is paid.

It should also be noted for a builder or contractor that the work only needs to be substantially complete for a lien to be valid.

The Hixson Law Firm serves clients in Mansfield, Arlington, Grand Prairie and other nearby Texas communities.

johnlaw_admin Feb 21, 2018 Comments (0)

The Differences Between Civil Lawsuits and Criminal Cases

A civil lawsuit may be brought against a person or a business for any number of reasons. A criminal case will seek to punish a defendant by doing time in jail or prison, as well as possibly paying fines, or maybe performing community service. By contrast, in a civil suit, a plaintiff brings the action with the intention of being awarded compensation for the harm that resulted from the defendant’s actions. In essence, a criminal case seeks the outcome of punishing the wrongdoer for a crime, but a civil case seeks to pay restitution to a victim.

Civil lawsuits in Grand Prairie, as well as in other Texas communities, may be brought by anyone for a number of reasons. This could include a breach of contract, a broken lease, payment for pain and suffering in a car accident, a slip and fall accident, medical malpractice, injuries resulting from defective products, or any other number of circumstances.

While a criminal case must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the burden of proof is much less in a civil case. In this instance, an attorney must only show that there is liability based on a preponderance of the evidence. This essentially means that it is more than likely that the facts of the case are true, which is a lesser standard than in a criminal case.

Also, while a criminal charge must be filed by a prosecutor, a civil case can be instigated by anyone, including a private party who is claiming that they suffered some kind of damage.

What Happens in Most Civil Lawsuits

While an attorney and their client must be prepared at all times to seek a civil lawsuit through to a trial, the reality is that the vast majority of civil suits will be settled long before they reach the courts. Both sides are often forced to partake in mandatory settlement negotiations in an attempt to reach agreement, thus avoiding the expense, time, and stress that a trial can produce. Settlements are also beneficial because they guarantee a plaintiff will win their case, removing the prospect that they could walk away without any kind of remuneration.

The Hixson Law Firm serves clients in Mansfield, Arlington, Grand Prairie and other nearby Texas communities.

johnlaw_admin Feb 14, 2018 Comments (0)

The Basics of Real Estate Deeds

When you buy or sell a piece of property, you must convey that property by legally creating and transferring the property with the drafting and recording of a real estate deed. Some real estate transactions have the deed conveyed with the assistance of an attorney, while others do not. An attorney can provide valuable assistance by helping to determine what form of document is appropriate for the transaction, who must sign the deed, how the new owners will hold title, and if there will be any other interests or covenants that must be spelled out.

When conveying a piece of property, the buyer is known as the grantee, and the seller is known as the grantor.

The most form of deed is a warranty deed, also known as a grant deed. It not only transfers ownership, but also warrants that the grantor holds good title to the property.

By contrast, a quitclaim deed transfers ownership of the property, but does not guarantee what that interest is or that the title is in good standing. Quitclaim deeds are most commonly executed in informal transactions between friends and family members, or as part of a divorce proceeding.

Recording Your Deed is the Final Step

Deeds can either be created in joint tenancy or by tenancy in common. Joint tenancy means that when one person passes away, the owner’s share passes automatically to the surviving joint tenants. This is the most common arrangement with a married couple. Tenancy in common means that when a person dies, their share of the property passes down to their heirs or to the appropriate persons named in their will.

None of this becomes legal until the real estate deed, in Arlington or other Texas communities, is recorded. This takes place at an appropriate county office where the property is located. This might be a county recorder’s office, a land registry office, or a register of deeds. It is important to note that an owner’s interests are not fully enacted and protected until the deed is recorded.

The Hixson Law Firm serves clients in Mansfield, Arlington, Grand Prairie and other nearby Texas communities.

johnlaw_admin Jan 24, 2018 Comments (0)

Don’t Hesitate: Find a Title Disputes Attorney in Arlington Today

Joe had lived in his Arlington neighborhood since he was a child. He had seen people come, and go over the years and watched as his community aged and changed. He was extremely content that he now lived in the home that once belonged to his parents, and he planned on living there for the rest of his life. One day, his neighbor moved out, and a new neighbor moved in. Everything was fine as far as Joe was concerned, as they were a young, friendly couple with a newborn baby in tow. They got to know one another and life was good.

However, that would change for both of them the day the neighbors came over and requested that Joe removes the fence separating a patch of grass that split both of their driveways. The husband was interested in renovating the driveway and extending the surface area out to what he claimed was his portion of the land that was there. Joe found this to be absurd since the fence not only split the patch evenly down the middle but more so because it was a fence with sentimental value – he and his father had built and painted it several years back. He was not so convinced to allow his new neighbor to go through with his project, and they both soon found themselves embroiled in a title dispute.

Joe made a quick and efficient decision: he hired himself a qualified and experienced dirt attorney. In the real estate industry, dirt lawyers is the name given to lawyers who obtain government approvals and deal with land use. At the Hixson Law Firm, we can get down to the details and use information from the deed, property survey, county recorder’s office, and assessor’s office to determine the fine details of who owns what parts of a property. If you need a title disputes attorney in Arlington, TX, then contact us today!

johnlaw_admin Mar 03, 2016 Comments (0)

Get It Right With a Real Estate Lawyer in Arlington

Mary and Tom have been saving up for several years to purchase the home of their dreams. They have recently come across a few areas that have the types of homes and communities that they would love to integrate themselves and their future family into. However,  now that the time has come to open up their search, they find that they are a bit reluctant. They have several friends and family members who are openly supportive of their decision to jump into home-buying, but not without being hesitant to refer any real estate agents. Mary and Tom did not understand why they weren’t getting recommendations, but the reason soon became apparent.

While there are plenty of great real estate agents who love helping people find and purchase (or sell) their dream homes, there are times when agents are under-qualified or partake in dubious practices. This is, after all, a lot of money that goes through on these transactions, emotions run high, and the potential for exploitation does exist. While friends and family might have been reluctant to recommend real estate agents, they did recommend seeking the help of a real estate lawyer in Arlington that could help ensure that all the ins and outs of the real estate process were clear, defined, and legitimate.

If you are planning on buying a home in the great city of Arlington, Texas, then you are already on your way to making one of the best decisions you could make in your life! To ensure that this enormous step of purchasing a home (in one of the state’s finest cities!) is done correctly and securely, you should enlist the guidance of a qualified and experienced real estate lawyer.

The Hixson Law Firm has a proud history of helping clients settle all sorts of issues revolving around the topic of real estate, from the preparation of the deeds to litigation to remove the title to real property and other probate matters. Our services are available throughout Texas, including Arlington, Grand Prairie, and Mansfield.

johnlaw_admin Feb 25, 2016 Comments (0)

Finding a Probate Lawyer to Help Families Find Closure in Arlington

A wealthy resident recently left her family of 25 behind. She had multiple children and grandchildren who all looked up to her and treated one another relatively well. However, when the grief of her passing had settled, and the family moved into probate proceedings, something changed. They found that they were constantly bickering and trying to argue over who deserved more or less of their beloved grandmother’s estate. For a lack of better words, it tore their family apart. A probate lawyer stepped in and helped resolve the matter, which came as a great relief in the end because an otherwise loving and connected family could have crumbled at the crevices that were starting to form around this probate issue.

The city of Arlington, Texas, is like all other cities in this great nation and around the world. Eventually, at some point, all of the residents reach the end of their lives and families are left with not only grieving but resolving the matter of who receives the property and settles the estate of the deceased. For issues such as these, probate lawyers step in and serve as legal representatives who can help bring closure as disputes about inheritors and inheritances may cause more sorrow.

Probate lawyers help people arrange, draft and confirm their wills to prevent families from having to tackle an uphill battle once they move on. They also help set up powers of attorney, trusts, affidavits of heirship, and much more. The main takeaway, however, is that they will offer a rock of support to help contextualize the ins and outs of pending disputes over heirship or inheritance, and allow you the peace of mind to accurately define and close out these types of matters.

At the Hixson Law Firm, we specialize in helping families either prepare or respond to the ever-untimely circumstances that orbit around a death. As a probate lawyer in Arlington, TX, you will also find our services available in Grand Prairie and Mansfield.

johnlaw_admin Feb 18, 2016 Comments (0)

The Different Stages of Civil Litigation

Civil litigation is not a term that is familiar to everyone, although it is simple enough to understand. Civil litigation is defined as a legal dispute between two parties where no criminal sanctions exist. There are also several stages of civil litigation that every person should know.

The first stage is the pleading stage. This consists of filing a complaint against someone for some kind of wrongdoing that is not criminal. It is up to the court to decide whether the claim is substantial enough to proceed further. Defendants will usually file a motion in an attempt to dismiss the case, but that decision is ultimately in the hands of the court.

The following stage is the discovery stage. It is just as it sounds. It is a process of discovering evidence to prove each side’s case. Either side can ask questions through depositions or interrogatories.

After the discovery stage, defendants will usually file a motion for a summary judgment. That makes the claim that the plaintiff does not have sufficient enough evidence to continue with the lawsuit. If the court rules on the side of the defendant, then the lawsuit is finished. If the court does not rule in favor of the defendant, then it is on to a trial.

Most times, both parties are sent to an arbitration hearing where a mediator will attempt to work out a deal between the two parties before having to appear in court. This can also be referred to as a settlement conference. If the two sides cannot agree, a court date is set and then it is off to a trial.

The time frame between filing a complaint and going to an actual trial could wind up being a rather lengthy one. Since criminal lawsuits rank higher in priority than civil lawsuits, there could be a lot of waiting involved.

Once the trial process has concluded, there is always the option to appeal the ruling. That could drag the lawsuit out even longer.

Each stage of civil litigation could be filled with quite a few complexities that the average person may not understand. That’s why it’s important to have an experienced litigation attorney working for you. John A. Hixson, Attorney at Law is proud to continue to serve residents of Arlington, Mansfield and Grand Prairie in all kinds of litigation cases.

johnlaw_admin Dec 23, 2014 Comments (0)

New Power of Attorney Law in Texas

This past year has introduced a new change that affects probate law in the state of Texas. Elderly residents often find themselves in need of someone else to take charge of their affairs. In the event that they become incapacitated or incompetent.

It seems simple enough. When a person can longer take care of their own affairs, someone else steps in and takes over. That is where power of attorney comes into play.

However, a new law has changed things.

Texas’ new Statutory Power of Attorney form differs from the previous way power of attorney was handled in the state. Now, principals have to initial where each of their powers are to be granted to the person they are entrusting with their affairs, also known as an agent. This form also starts with a written warning to the principal that they need to choose an agent they deem trustworthy.

Furthermore, there is a choice of when the power of attorney can go into effect. It could be immediate or it could be delayed until the principal’s future incapacity. There is also a closing section which further attempts to protect the principal.

At the conclusion of this new form, the agent claims personal liability and responsibility to act in the best interest of the principal. Nevertheless, the principal has to have the capability of initialing this kind of form. Without that capability, it is invalid.

It is just one more way of helping to make sure elders’ assets and best interests are protected. It is also somewhat monumental because it has been almost two decades since any changes were made with Texas’ statutory power of attorney. The last changes made came in 1997.

Statutory Power of Attorney could be a complex issue when dealing with the preparation of wills or probate. Any estate planning could always be a slippery slope, and that’s why it is important to seek assistance from a trusted professional.

Hixson Law Firm can walk clients through this process and make sure all your rights are protected. Preparation and probate of wills, trusts, and affidavits of heirship are just some of the areas our attorneys can help you. Arlington, Grand Prairie and Mansfield residents now have a real solution with real lawyers who are ready to work for you.

johnlaw_admin Dec 16, 2014 Comments (0)

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