Tag: estate planning lawyer

 Animal Attacks

Estate Planning Lawyer

Believe it or not animal attacks in the United States are fairly common. Just in the United States alone, the estimated number of animal attacks per year is around 4.5 million. And in some states, such as Texas, animal attacks are one of the main health concerns for hospitals. It’s important to remember when these animal attacks happen it isn’t only coyotes or hogs. Household pets like cats and dogs are also big contributors to this problem, this is where the law gets involved. 

If a dog or a cat is owned by someone, in most cases the owner can be held liable for the damage done by their pet, whether it was done on another person, or even another person’s pet. It’s important to take into consideration that animal attack laws vary by state. For instance, Texas has a “one-bite-rule”. This means the owner of a dog cannot be held liable for any injuries their dog has caused the first time their dog bites a person or someone else’s pet. But there are exceptions to the one-bite-rule — three to be exact. 

The first exception is if the dog owner knew the dog had the potential to bite someone. An example of this is when a dog is often standoffish with new people, or if their dog starts to growl and bare its teeth at a person minutes before attacking. The second exception to this rule is if the dog owner is negligent or encouraged the dog to bite the other person, this would apply if someone commanded their dog to hurt or attack you. 

The third and final exception to this rule is if the dog owner violated an animal control law, like not keeping the dog on a leash while taking it on a walk at the park. 

The only other way to take legal action against an animal attack (from a household pet owner) is if the person who was wounded acquires a personal injury attorney and presses criminal charges against the pet owner. This can only be applied if the dog attacked the person unprovoked and left serious bodily injury. If the owner is found guilty of their dog’s actions, then he or she will be charged with a third-degree felony. A felony of this caliber is punishable by two to 10 years in prison, and they may be given a fine of up to $10,000. Moreover, if the person who was attacked dies, the owner can be charged with up to a second-degree felony, with more prison time and a higher fine amount.

Despite animal attacks being somewhat common in the United States, attacks from household pets like dogs or cats can be almost just as dangerous as those from wild animals. When bitten by a household pet, the person who has been attacked must take the best course of action they can after the event occurs. Whether that be to brushing it off and moving on from the incident, of course, if there was no major injury that was caused during the attack or to get a personal injury lawyer from a law firm like Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC, and discuss the incident with them to understand the best course of action to take. Even in Texas, where there is a one-bite-rule, if serious damage has been done, do not hesitate to contact a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible.

Divorce v. Legal Separation: What’s the Difference?

Estate Planning Lawyer

If you are considering the process of legally ending your marriage, you have likely heard two common terms: divorce or legal separation. These terms are typically used interchangeably, but each have different significance in court. So what is the difference between the two? What are the processes? And what is the best choice for your lifestyle?


A divorce is the legal end of a marriage. Throughout the court process, your assets will be divided, custody arrangements will be determined and spousal and child support amounts will be calculated. The estates of both spouses are officially split and they are no longer permitted to share health insurance or tax benefits. At the close of the divorce filing process, the wife is legally allowed to change her name.


In official terms, a “seperated” couple is still married. You can live in a completely different zip code, or even country, from your spouse and still be legally bound together. The only thing that might change in some states is your filing status on your taxes (you would file as “separated” instead of “married’). However, separated couples don’t have legally mediated conclusions regarding bill payments and custody; so if issues arise between you and your spouse, you would need to go through some special procedures with an attorney to ensure you receive the support you’re due.

Legal Separation

A “legal separation” is an official status change for your relationship. To obtain a legal separation, you must file a petition in court. Similarly to a divorce, the court will mandate spousal support and duties, but the couple will remain married.

While legal separation aren’t as common as divorces, they are helpful if the spouses just want time to work through lifestyle or financial decisions currently impacting the marriage. Other couples choose to pursue a legal separation because they hold religious or moral beliefs against the concept of divorce. Still more want to function independently from their spouse but still receive the insurance and tax benefits they enjoyed during marriage.

After filing for a legal separation, you can choose to move forward with the divorce, or just remain separated from your spouse permanently. If the wife does not finalize a divorce, she is not allowed to legally change back to her former name.

Choosing how to end your marriage can be a painful and confusing process, as a divorce attorney, such as from Brandy Austin Law Firm, knows well. This is made even more perplexing by the fact that some states refuse to recognize legal separation. No matter which route you choose, you should work with an attorney who can help you work out the intricacies between divorce and legal separation.

Common Bankruptcy Questions

Estate Planning Lawyer

Most people only have a vague idea of how bankruptcy works. When people think of someone filing for bankruptcy they imagine rich people being dragged from their houses while all of their gaudy possessions are thrown into boxes. The truth is far less dramatic but can seem more convoluted. If you are looking to file for bankruptcy, or in general have no way to pay off your debts, these are probably some of the questions you are asking.

What Is Bankruptcy?

In the simplest sense, bankruptcy is a system that allows individuals and businesses to go to court in order to get their debts canceled. Depending on the type of bankruptcy being filed for, the amount of debt and the amount of personal wealth the person has all play a role in determining how the debt gets discharged.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Debt relief is a very personal thing and can become necessary through no fault of the person filing. Even so, since anyone filing for bankruptcy is going through a court system, having a lawyer to help navigate the technicalities and legal jargon can be a huge help. While it is not required like in criminal or civil courts, having a lawyer is highly recommended.

What Are the Different Types of Bankruptcy?

A business or individual can file under two different chapters: Chapter 7 and chapter 13. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is the more straightforward of the two: the court reviews all property and income of the person filing. Once the value of their property, along with whether any property is exempt, is determined, the court appoints a trustee to oversee the selling of the debtor’s property. All of this money goes to paying back the creditors and any debt left is discharged. This is the type of bankruptcy that most people imagine when they think about filing for bankruptcy.

Chapter 13 bankruptcy, on the other hand, is a bit less straightforward. The debtor agrees to a court-mandated repayment plan in exchange for getting to keep all of their property. Income, the amount of debt and other factors analyzed by the court determine how much the debtor must repay, and how that repayment is structured. Generally, payment plans are between three and five years long. At the end of the repayment plan, if all payments were made on time, then any remaining debt is discharged.


When Preparing a Will, What Is a Guardian?

Estate Planning Lawyer

If you’ve been thinking about the end of your life, chances are you’re making a will. While this can be done at any stage of life, it’s often important to do so when you are a young adult. Be sure you make changes to the will as your life changes. For example, if you get a new job and begin making a lot more money, you might want to distribute your funds differently. If you get married, you’ll probably want to include your spouse in the will. When you have children, you’ll typically include them as well.

Speaking of children, when they are minors, you’ll need to name a guardian for them in your will. What is a guardian? How do you choose someone? The following should give you some additional guidance.

The Definition of a Guardian

A guardian is someone the court appoints to care for your children. If you make a will, you get to decide who that individual is. There are different types of guardians, however, and you should be aware of that when you go to make your will.

First, there are physical guardians. These individuals are responsible to take care of the physical and emotional needs of your children. These are the individuals your children would live with, who would feed them and clothe them, take them to school and extracurricular activities, and provide love and care for them overall.

Next, there are estate guardians. These individuals are responsible to handle your estate as it applies to your children. Financial decisions will be made for the children by the estate guardian. This means if you want your children to attend a private school, the estate guardian would make the payment each year. If you have a trust set up for the child’s future college or marriage expenses, the estate guardian would handle that as well.

Finally, there are personal and estate guardians. These are individuals who make all the decision for the child, including medical, physical, financial and more. This gives authority to the guardian to do everything a parent would typically do.

How to Choose a Guardian

There should be a lot of thought put into who you should choose as guardians for your child. For a physical guardian, choose someone with similar values to your own. Choose someone who you trust to love and care for your child as their own. Ask someone who you know will raise the child the same way you would.

For a financial guardian, choose someone you trust with money, as well as someone you trust with your child. This person may become a big part of your child’s life, so you may want there to be a personal connection. It’s not essential the physical guardian and financial guardian get along well, but it does make the situation much easier.

Getting Started Today

When you’ve decided on guardians for your kids, it’s time to start your will. Contact an estate planning lawyer, like from Klenk Law, to get started today.

Your Will Gives Your Family Peace of Mind

Estate Planning Lawyer

Benjamin Franklin is often credited with the saying that there are only two things certain in life, death and taxes. At least with taxes, you have a precise date to pay them. With death, it could happen tomorrow or twenty years down the road. There’s no way to know when it will happen. Preparing for death doesn’t mean that it’s imminent. It just means that you want to make things easier for your family when your death does happen. Here’s what happens when you die without a will.

Dying Intestate Can Be Time-Consuming and Expensive

Dying without a will is called dying “intestate.” It just means that your estate must be handled through the probate process without any of your potential heirs having a say. A will is the document that tells the state how you want your assets distributed upon your death. Your will usually names someone who deals with all the paperwork and details and taxes. For the record, taxes are certain after death, too. If you have minor children, your will names a guardian and maybe a trustee to oversee the assets that were left to the children.

Probate is the legal process that transfers assets and makes sure all the details of your estate are handled properly. If you have a will, the executor manages your estate according to the details in the will. Depending on how you set up your estate, it will likely have to go through probate. The biggest difference is that without a will, state laws determine how your estate is divided.

State laws, called intestate succession laws, determine who inherits your estate. Generally speaking, your spouse is the first person in line to inherit. If you’re single, it would be your children. If you don’t have children, then it would fall to your parents. If no relatives are found, the estate would default to the state. In most cases, unmarried partners or friends cannot inherit anything if you die without a will.

If you die without a will, the legal fees for the executor are paid out of the will. This can be expensive. You, nor your heirs, have any consideration over who is appointed by the probate court to be the executor.  Probate may take longer because the state needs to ensure that all protocols are covered before finalizing the estate.

Talk to a Lawyer About a Will 

Dying without a will does not inconvenience you, but it will certainly be more difficult for your family. Discuss your estate plan with an estate planning lawyer, to give your heirs peace of mind.


Estate Planning Lawyer

When you have lost someone in your life, it can be incredibly confusing when you reach out to an attorney to figure out the next steps in probating an estate. There are so many new terms, deadlines, questions, it is a whirlwind that is not always easily understood. One of the most common questions I hear is what is an heirship? 

When someone dies without a Will in Texas, there estate will pass under the intestacy laws of the Texas Estates Code. Intestacy is merely a fancy term to show that the person died without a Will. The intestacy laws dictate that the estate is to pass to the person’s heirs. That is where the term heirship comes into play. An heirship is merely a proceeding in which a Court will make a determination of who the heirs actually are. 

Anyone who is considered an interest party can file an heirship proceeding in Texas. Typically, this interested person comes in the form of an heir who has an ownership interest in the estate itself. However, a creditor of the estate or a guardian could also be considered an interested person and could in fact file an application for heirship. The process is a complicated one, and it is strongly recommended that an applicant retain an attorney to help guide them through it. The process has many pitfalls and deadlines that are incredibly complicated. Further, many judges in Texas require that an applicant have an attorney to represent them in this process. Seeking attorney guidance can also help the applicant themselves. It is so often the case that when an applicant starts this process, it prevents them from truly grieving the loss of their loved one. Having an attorney can help get the applicant through the process quicker, which will allow them to begin grieving their loved one properly. 

Another pitfall that occurs in an heirship proceeding is understanding the deadline to file such a proceeding. Under the Texas Estates Code, if someone dies with a Will there is a limitation on filing that Will for probate. That deadline is four years from the date the person passed away. However, does this deadline apply to an heirship? Well, that depends. The Texas Supreme Court has outlined that the rule of thumb is that if a transfer of the decedent’s real property has been made to a third party or if a previous probate proceeding was filed than the four year time limit to file the proceeding does in fact apply. However, if neither of those things have occurred, then there is no time limit to file this proceeding. 

As you can see, it is not a simple process to probate a decedent’s estate. It is imperative that if you find yourself needing to file some form of a probate proceeding, that you seek legal guidance from an experienced probate attorney, like the attorneys at Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC

Is Filing for Bankruptcy the Right Choice?

Estate Planning Lawyer

When you are in debt, you may wonder if filing for bankruptcy is the right choice for your situation. While you don’t have to file for bankruptcy simply because you are in debt, you might feel desperate to have those debts paid, but with no way to pay them. In such a case, bankruptcy might be the only solution, but how do you know for sure? Speaking with a bankruptcy attorney can help you determine what to do when you are faced with serious debt.

Is Bankruptcy Required?

If you have the means to pay off your debts, bankruptcy is not required. You may be able to come up with a budget on your own so you don’t get sent to collections. If this is something you feel equipped to do, even if it requires the assistance of friends or family, then it may be your best option. Chapter 7 bankruptcy stays on your credit report for up to ten years and chapter 13 bankruptcy is on your report for up to seven years. If you can avoid this, you should.

What If There Is No Other Option?

If there is no other option but to file bankruptcy, it’s going to be ok. Bankruptcy is a great option for those who don’t have the means to figure out their debt on their own. According to the law, there is no minimum requirement on the amount of debt one must have to file for bankruptcy. If you are unable to pay your debts on your own, creditors are unable to work with you, creditors are trying to sue you or garnish your wages, or you are dealing with other similar issues, bankruptcy could be your only option.

Do I File Chapter 7 or Chapter 13?

There are two types of bankruptcy a person will typically file. Chapter 7 bankruptcy is for those who don’t have a disposable income. The individual’s property will be sold to pay off as much of the debts as possible. Chapter 13 bankruptcy is for those who do have a secure income. Instead of selling property, the court will outline a course of action to pay back all or a portion of the debts. Once the individual has completed his or her part of the agreement, the remaining debts are often forgiven.

Learning More

You may still be wondering whether filing for bankruptcy is the right choice for you, and that’s understandable. To learn more, contact a bankruptcy lawyer, like a bankruptcy lawyer, today and discuss your case.

Understanding What a Trust Is

Trust Attorney

If you are starting the process of planning your estate, it is important to know what your options are before you get started. You have two primary options:

  • A will
  • A trust

It is generally recommended that everyone has a will, although there are some things a will is not suited for. It may be a good idea to have a trust as well, to account for some of your possessions. It is common knowledge what a will is and how it works, but many people do not fully understand trusts. This guide will answer all your questions about trusts.

What Is a Trust?

Let’s start with the basics. What is a trust in the first place? A trust is essentially an agreement. If you set up a trust, you will be the benefactor. The person you make an agreement with is the trustee. And finally, the person you leave your possessions to is the beneficiary.

When you set up a trust, you transfer some of your possessions to the trustee. You also set a condition on the trust. When that condition is met, the trustee transfers the possessions to the beneficiary. If you hope to use a trust to plan your estate, the condition would likely be your death, although you can set up a trust for any reason and with any condition you want.

Why Would You Want a Trust?

So in what ways is a trust better than a will? There are advantages in a few areas:

  • Probate
  • Taxation
  • Conditions

First, a trust does not go through the probate period that a will does. Probate is usually not very long, but in rare cases where a will is improperly set up, probate can last months or years. Most of the time, however, probate only lasts a day or two or possibly a week at most. This is something you would never have to worry about with a trust.

Trusts also avoid estate taxation in most cases. The taxes a will are subject to are usually less than the fee needed to establish a trust, but this is not always the case. If you have a reason to suspect your estate will be taxed very highly, a trust may be more appealing.

Finally, you can set conditions on who receives what. For example, you can leave your grandson a car if he is old enough to drive at the time of your death. A will cannot do this. No matter what you decide, always speak with a trust lawyer.