The Importance of Having a Will

A will is a “bread and butter” document that states how someone’s property will be divided after their death. It is the core document that is pretty much universal to any estate planning process.

However, surveys show that only as few as one-third of Americans have a properly executed will in place. There are a few assumptions driving this, most of which are false.

People assume that creating a will is a long an onerous process. But the fact is that unless you have a very large and complicated estate, preparing a will in Arlington is relatively simple and can be accomplished in as little as one to two weeks in many cases.

Another assumption is that people think working with an attorney to create a will is expensive. The truth is, what is expensive is not having a will in place. Without a will, the courts will decide how your assets may be divided, and your loved ones could rack up legal bills as well as not attain assets that they would otherwise be entitled to.

The Benefits of Wills

Executing a will provides you and your surviving heirs with a number of benefits.

First and foremost, you get to decide who will get the property and other assets in your estate. Without a will, your estate is subject to “intestacy” which means those decisions will be made without your input and the bulk of your estate could go to others you do not want.

With a will, you get to choose who will be the executor of your estate. This person should be somebody you trust to make sure all of your instructions are carried out. Without a will, the courts will choose an executor for you, and it may not be someone you want to have control of your assets.

You can amend or revoke a will. If your circumstances change, you can amend your will through a codicil to better reflect your most current wishes. If a will no longer represents any of your wishes, you can also revoke it entirely and start over.

Although there are several do-it-yourself forms and websites that allow you to create a will, it is still smart to invest a relatively small amount of money by hiring a lawyer to protect your family as much as possible. Just like other family financial issues, a will is an investment in your future, and making that small investment now will pay handsome dividends in the future.

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

johnlaw_admin Mar 28, 2018 Comments (0)

Dealing with Title Disputes in Mansfield, Texas

Although record keeping has improved significantly with the advent of technology, there are still many instances that a real estate transaction can be delayed or derailed due to a title dispute. Especially in the older parts of Mansfield where title and boundary lines were recorded a long time ago, title disputes take place on a regular basis.

Although title insurance can protect the title to a property and reduce an owner’s risk, an owner can still be at risk for a variety of ownership rights. These can include:

  • Boundaries and easements
  • Liens
  • Adverse possession
  • Restrictive covenants
  • Title reformation actions
  • Mechanic’s liens
  • Quiet title
  • Zoning disputes

Mistakes also can happen, such as when clerical or filing errors take place. These can definitely affect your deed or survey as well. Another less common problem, but one that still occurs, is forgery or false impersonation of a previous owner which can create chaos when it is discovered.

Also, when a person dies and ownership falls to their heirs, sometimes one or more of those heirs may not be able to be located. When this happens, the title may fall into dispute as the remaining family members may contest the will for their own property rights. These types of disputes can happen long after another person has purchased the property and could affect the current owner’s rights to the property.

The Best Way to Resolve Title Disputes

Because real estate law is complex, you will need to retain an experienced real estate law attorney to represent you. The best way to resolve a title dispute is to attempt to negotiate a solution to avoid a costly court battle that will also take a lot longer to settle. However, if your attorney can reach an amicable settlement, you and they should be prepared to go to court to litigate through your issue.

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

johnlaw_admin Mar 21, 2018 Comments (0)

An Experienced Attorney Can Help You with Many Facets of Real Estate Law

By the very nature and size of a typical transaction, buying and selling real estate can be a complicated process. It has become even more so in recent years, as additional steps and processes have been added to protect consumers.

Although the vast majority of real estate deals move forward in a logical way and are completed with few surprises, there is always the possibility that a dispute will arise. Rather than take the chance that a deal could end up costing you dearly, it makes sense in so many ways to hire an experienced real estate attorney to help you with any number of issues related to real estate law.

Protecting Yourself in All Aspects of a Transaction

There are many “hot spots” in a real estate transaction that can trigger the need for legal representation. Some of those include:

Title disputes. Although record keeping has improved significantly in recent years, at times the ownership of a piece of property can come into question. Until a clear title has been established, it is impossible to complete a transaction.

Broker and agent disputes. When a realtor or broker fails to live up to the high standards of ethical conduct expected of them, a client may suffer a loss as a result. This may involve breaching their fiduciary duty, creating an undue pressure to buy, or failing to reveal errors and omissions.

Foreclosures. Attorneys are often called upon to handle the details of foreclosure on a property. Acting as an intermediary can have many benefits for a bank or a lender, as well as protecting the rights of a property owner from unscrupulous banking processes.

Land use disputes. When developers or homeowners fail to follow zoning or other use restrictions, litigation may ensue. An attorney seasoned in real estate law in Mansfield can also assist homeowners with HOA issues, conflicts between neighbors, easements, or boundary and nuisance problems.

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

johnlaw_admin Mar 14, 2018 Comments (0)

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)

Sooner or Later, Most People Require the Services of a Family Law Attorney

Like it or not, every family goes through a number of changes over the years. Some are easy to deal with, and others can test the bonds and strength of everyone who is involved. Some issues are personal, and some require more than just sitting down and talking things out. In those cases, it may be advisable to bring in an outside entity to help you in the form of a family law attorney in Mansfield.

How a Family Law Attorney Can Help You

There are many possible times when you will want to consult a family law attorney. By their very nature, family law attorneys are generalists, equipped to handle a variety of matters. This may include the preparation of wills and living trusts, contested and uncontested divorces, property disputes, challenges to the disbursement of an estate, tax concerns, alimony and child support issues, child custody, and many other related legal matters.

One barrier that people perceive as a stumbling block when it comes to hiring a family law attorney is cost. But the reality is, hiring an attorney may actually save you money in the long run. For example, if a couple has decided to divorce, an attorney may be able to mediate a settlement, instead of both parties remaining angry at each other and pushing their battle into the courtroom – where costs can rise significantly. Finding common ground before going into court makes sense instead of putting yourself at the mercy of the court, where a judge may or may not give one or both parties what they really want.

A family law attorney can also remove much of the emotion in a situation, and provide factual counsel, instead of letting a client fly off the handle because they are angry. Rational decision making not only saves emotional stress, it can also prevent a person from making a spiteful financial mistake as well.

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

johnlaw_admin Feb 07, 2018 Comments (0)

What You Should Know If You’re Getting a Divorce in Texas

Divorce is never easy, and not knowing exactly how the divorce process plays out in Texas can add a considerable amount of strain to your life if you’re thinking about filing or have already started the process.

Here are some basic things you should know about divorce in the Lone Star state.

Texas is a no-fault state. This means that you or your spouse does not need to prove either one did anything wrong to get divorced. Some spouses will allege fault which may affect the division of property as you move forward. However, most divorces move forward on the supposition of insupportability.

There is a mandatory minimum waiting period. It takes a minimum of 60 days to get a divorce in Texas because of a mandatory waiting period. In addition, at least one of the spouses must have been a resident of Texas for at least 6 months leading up to the divorce, and one of the spouses must also have been a resident of the county where the divorce is filed for at least 90 days prior to the filing.

Shortly after filing for divorce, if couples do not agree, a temporary hearings order will take place to clarify things such as living arrangements, a possession schedule for any children, temporary spousal and child support, and who pays which bills such as car payments, mortgage, and utilities.

Texas Is Not a Community Property State

Texas is not a 50/50 community property state. Judges do have some leeway when it comes to dividing assets if they see fault or bad behavior on one side or the other.

Alimony is a possibility, but it is difficult to qualify for it. The courts expect both sides to return to the workforce as soon as possible if they are capable of doing so.

Child support is clearly defined by the Texas Family code. If you are required to pay child support, you must pay 20 percent of your net income for one child, 25 percent for two and it goes up 5 percent for each child up to 40 percent.

Your spouse is not required to pay for your health insurance, but you may be entitled to purchase health insurance under the former spouses group plan.

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

johnlaw_admin Jan 31, 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)

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