Adoptions Attorney Leslie Barrows
Texas trusts: Revocable and irrevocable treasure chests 
 

What is a living revocable trust and why do we create them? A trust is a legal contract in which money or assets are positioned for the benefit of another, the trustee. You can create a trust in which to hold title to your home, cars and accounts, specifically designating who has interests and rights to the property held in the trust. The primary reason most people create a trust is to eliminate and avoid probate court and estate taxes. Here in Texas, the probate process is more complicated than other states that use the Uniform Probate Code, so if you are new to Texas, your estate planning decisions may be different than they would be in another state. In addition to probate and estate taxes, there are reasons to create your living trust as an irrevocable trust, to protect your assets and property in the trust from the reach of predators and creditors.

What is the difference between a revocable and irrevocable trust?

Simply, a revocable trust can be changed or destroyed by the settlor (person who creates the trust), and an irrevocable trust cannot. When you create a revocable trust, you can freely change the beneficiaries and move property, assets and money in and out of the trust as you wish. On the other hand, when you create an irrevocable trust, you no longer have legal title of ownership to the property in the irrevocable trust, you simply have a legal interest in the ownership and the trustee, a third party you chose, has a fiduciary legal duty to protect the assets of the trust and follow the orders of the written trust agreement.

Think of a trust as a big treasure chest, in which you can place stacks of money, cars, houses and whatever else you want to protect. A living revocable trust is like a treasure chest with an open lid, and you can put things in and take things out as you wish. The irrevocable trust is the same treasure chest, except the lid is closed and you cannot reopen the chest to move things in or out at your discretion. Only the trustee has the key and can open the trust and pull out some money for you if they see fit and it is within their fiduciary duty as trustee.

Attempting to create trusts on your own, without a lawyer may be like doing your own dental work.

There are so many vendors selling do-it-yourself kits for legal matters. When it comes to estate planning, the laws are written to make sure things are done correctly so people are not otherwise denied their rights or wishes. Creating a revocable trust versus an irrevocable trust, that will be valid and enforceable is a matter of intent and specific language.

While express terms of art (magic legal words) are not required to create an irrevocable trust, the trust must show the settlor/grantor’s intent to make the trust irrevocable.[i] The irrevocable trust, however, must be shown by terms and language in the trust document, and cannot be implied or inferred.[ii]

Whether it is better to create a revocable or irrevocable trust depends on your situation.

Asking whether one form of a trust is better than the other is like asking whether it is better to fly or drive between Dallas and Austin. How close are you to the airport? Will you have to park and leave your vehicle? Is someone else paying for your travel? All these factors influence your decision making, and the same applies to the creation of a trust.

Too often people make the mistake of assuming that they are not wealthy enough to need a trust and that trusts are only for the sons and daughters of oil barons. This is not true. A trust can protect you and your family from all sorts of unexpected life events, especially an irrevocable trust. Consider the value of a life insurance policy and how the proceeds of that policy could change things for your surviving family members, and how a trust could protect them and the money.

There is never a bad time to consider trusts and estate planning, especially if you have assets and a family, however large or small. Get the information and make an informed decision about the future.

The Barrows Firm shares important information and resources about Texas estate planning issues that affect families in the DFW Metroplex. When getting it right the first time is not an option, people go to The Barrows Firm for the right information and resources they need to protect themselves and their families.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. To read client endorsements and reviews of Attorney, Leslie Barrows, please visit her Avvo.com profile.

 

 

[i] Austin Lake Estates Recreation Club, Inc. v. Gilliam, 493 S.W.2d 343 (Tex. Civ. App. – Austin 1973).

[ii] Wils v. Robinson, 934 S.W.2d 717 (Tex. 1997).

Privacy Invasion: Liability for accessing a spouse’s phone without consent 
 

Under Texas law, reaffirmed in a recent case, your cell phone, when it is a smart phone, is considered a computer. Smart phones and devices that save information can help and hurt us when we access and use information, particularly information owned by other people, including spouses. Nowadays it starts in early dating, the temptation to “go through” someone’s phone to see who they are texting, who they receive calls from and what apps they frequently use. Just because it’s a quick peak while the other is in the shower does not mean it is less of an invasion of privacy. In the eyes of developing laws addressing technology and security, you might as well break into another’s office and sort through their computer, desk, mail and filing cabinets. A spouse, whether in a divorce case or in a private cause of action, can sue you and win if you violate their privacy by accessing their private information.

Going through another’s phone to grab screenshots can be a risky proposition.

In many privacy invasion cases, spouses or others possibly assisting another are looking for evidence of wrongdoing or bad activity. Emails, text messages, social media messages and recorded voicemails are sources of information that may help a spouse prove their case and allegations made against the other. The bad activity may be cheating, hiding money, drug use, porn or gambling issues. While finding the evidence you need may help you prove elements of your divorce case and net you a greater share of community property, for example, but the cost may be a criminal conviction for violating the laws designed to protect us from other people violating our privacy by accessing our smart phones (computers) without our permission.

A Dallas husband monitored his wife without her knowledge and it came back to bite him.

In the Dallas case, Bradley Miller v. Talley Dunn Gallery, LLC and Talley Dunn[i], the husband tracked his wife like a hawk, using a tracking device in her car, recorded her phone calls, snooped through her phone while she was asleep and grabbed screenshots along the way. The husband started posting some of the information and sharing it with other people, in an effort to prove his assertions about her and make her look bad to her friends and coworkers.

The wife did more than get mad, she got even and sued then ex-husband for intercepting her private information, invading her privacy and she successfully obtained a restraining order stopping the husband from making any further posts and sharing any more of the personal information he took from her phone. After the wife won on her privacy cases in the Dallas County 191st District Court, the Dallas Court of Appeals upheld the trial court after the ex-husband appealed.

“This ruling reaffirms our understanding of one point of law. It is well-established that any person, including a spouse, commits a crime if he or she knowingly or intentionally intercepts wire, oral or electronic communications to which he or she is not a party without the permission of one of the parties to the communication.[ii]– Texas Lawyer

The Interception of Communications Act

A person may sue another for violations of the Interceptions of Communications Act (ICA) when the person, “(1) intercepts, attempts to intercept, or employs or obtains another to intercept attempt to intercept the communication; or (2) uses or divulges information that he knows or reasonably should know was obtained by interception of the communication.[iii]” The law further states that intercepting a communication occurs when “the aural acquisition of the contents of a communication through the use of an electronic, mechanical or other device is made without the consent of the party to the communication.[iv]

The Harmful Access by Computer Act (HACA)

A person injured, or whose property is injured (and/or improperly used) may sue another for violations of the Harmful Access by Computer Act, “if the conduct constituting the violation was committed knowingly and intentionally,” and the suit is brought “before the earlier of the fifth anniversary of the date of the last act in the course of the conduct constituting a violation…or the second anniversary of the date the claimant first discovered or had reasonable opportunity to discover the violation.[v]

If you “access” your spouse/another person’s smart phone “computer” without their “effective consent” you may be liable for actual damages and attorney’s fees and costs to bring and win the cause. Note that the argument that the phone is community property fails when used to challenge whether one spouse has consent to access the other’s phone, under the HACA.

For more information please contact The Barrows Firm.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located at 700 East Southlake Boulevard in Southlake near the Town Square.

You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. To read client endorsements and reviews of Attorney, Leslie Barrows, please visit her Avvo.com profile.

 

[i] Bradley Miller v. Talley Dunn Gallery, LLC and Talley Dunn, No. 05-15-00444-CV (On Appeal from the 191st Judicial District Court in Dallas County, Texas, Trial Court Cause No. DC-15-01598)

[ii] Texas Lawyer, Electronic ‘Smoking Gun’ Evidence in Family Law Cases Has Potential to Backfire, By Jessica W. Thorne and B. Wyn Williams, May 17, 2015.

[iii] TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE ANN. § 123.002(a)(1)–(2)

[iv] See HNiii above at § 123.001(2)

[v] TEX. CIV. PRAC. & REM. CODE ANN. § 143.001(a),(b)

Image Source: FlexiSpy, Many Spouses Cheat. They All Use Cell Phones http://bit.ly/1TJz9ku

CPS in crisis? Should the state pay to increase professionalism? 
 

Trusting in the system is not enough, when more could be done to improve the system and save lives. Texas Department of Family & Protective Services (DFPS) is often criticized for failing to meet the expectations of Texans, particularly in the Child Protective Services (CPS) department. The CPS system failed a 4 year old from Grand Prairie. “A chain of errors, incompetence and systemic problems at Child Protective Services prevented the agency from protecting Leiliana from savage abuse with which her mother and her boyfriend are charged, agency documents obtained by The Dallas Morning News reveal.[i]” Thought leaders suggest there are options agencies can take to improve CPS. Staffing, training and increased standards for professionalism can all be improved by methods and money. Those who advance and support increased funding for CPS suggest that Texas has the funds. Meanwhile, there are system supervisory models that may also be effective in increasing skills and professionalism, in effort to better protect and save the lives.

Perception of CPS in crisis

News reports of a child death are significant and compelling. Many ask why the system failed. Too often state departments and agencies are criticized for system failures and respond by making staff changes and policy directives to make improvements; the effectiveness of which may be subject to debate.

Child welfare agencies like CPS should have well-trained staff who within the system, maintain a balance between the interests of parents and the state. A professional staff with discretion and more localized work with families are best able to serve the children and people of the state. Staffing challenges include keeping a well-trained and experienced team of child welfare professionals.

High turnover in CPS is a problem. The average CPS caseworker starts at about $33,000 per year and many of those caseworkers, younger in their careers, only remain in their positions an average of six months. Will Francis, government relations director for the National Association of Social Workers Texas suggests, “We don’t necessarily value the workers themselves, but we ask them to do these really, really hard jobs[ii].”

Critical need for professionalism in child welfare

A recent case study of a supervisory model, considering increased professionalism in child welfare, calls for attention to the current systems and calls the situation a crisis, “The continuing need for a professional, well-trained, and stable workforce constitutes a crisis in child welfare. Central to this crisis is the under-representation of social work knowledge and skills in both direct practice and supervision.[iii]

Increase in professionalism costs money

To answer the charge of valuing the workers, paying them for their experience and increasing their education and training are steps critics of the current system believe the state should take. More educational programs in colleges and universities focusing on child welfare work could produce better-trained staff, and with the cost of increased education, staff should be valued and compensated accordingly. If the state increased salaries by an extra $15,000 per year, at a cost to $400 million per year, CPS could recruit more qualified caseworkers and keep them longer.[iv]

Finding the money in the Texas budget

The Texas Department of Public Safety approved an increase in safety personnel along the Texas border in 2015, which cost the state $800 million over two years, “or almost exactly what Francis thinks would be necessary to professionalize the front line of CPS.[v]

In addition to, or in the alternative to salary and qualification increases, CPS may also consider new social work education and training programs to, “professionalize child welfare and strengthen the ability of child welfare staff to utilize state of the art knowledge and skills in supervision and direct practice.[vi]

The Barrows Firm follows and shares child welfare news and resources to educate and increase awareness of the issues affecting children and families in North Texas.

As opportunities to learn more about child welfare issues and solutions are discussed, The Barrows Firm writes and shares the information we all need to be better aware of the challenges facing children and families who are involved and affected by child welfare issues and the systems. For more information about CPS, please contact The Barrows Firm.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. To read client endorsements and reviews of Attorney, Leslie Barrows, please visit her Avvo.com profile.

[i] The Dallas Morning News, Trail Blazers Blog, When 4-year-old Leiliana Wright needed Dallas CPS most, it failed at every turn, By J. David McSwane, Apr. 9, 2016.

[ii] Dallasobserver.com, Austin Can Find the Money to Fix Child Protective Services, If It Wants To, By Eric Nicholson, May 9, 2016.

[iii] Researchgate.net, Professionalizing child welfare: An evaluation of a clinical consultation model for supervisors, By Virginia C. Strand, Lee Badger, Jan. 6, 2005, see page 15/16.

[iv] See HNii above.

[v] See HNii above.

[vi] See HNiii above.

Summer time possession schedules with Fort Worth Attorney Leslie Barrows 
 

The Barrows Firm Law Review is a monthly Internet radio show podcast featuring information about Texas family, criminal, juvenile, probate and estate planning law and events. Attorney Leslie Barrows is our featured guest today as she shares insight and information about summer time possession schedules.

Summer time possession schedules with Fort Worth Attorney Leslie Barrows

  • What is summer time possession schedule and how is it addressed in the Texas Family Code?
  • When is it a good time to work on getting a summer time possession schedule in place?
  • Can I use the summer time possession schedule from last year, or can we modify it?
  • How can I enforce the summer time possession schedule if the other parent ignores it?
  • What do I say to my child asking questions about the summer and I do not know what to say?

Leslie Barrows is the principal founder of The Barrows Firm in Fort Worth, Texas. In her firm’s main practice areas of family law, criminal defense and juvenile law, Leslie is consistently challenged with dynamic cases and clients. When winning is what matters, many in the Fort Worth area go to The Barrows Firm based on their reputation an winning track record over the past decade. Leslie Barrows earned her undergraduate degree from Sam Houston State University and she earned her law degree from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. She is a member of numerous organizations primarily focused in Tarrant County.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. To read client endorsements and reviews of Attorney, Leslie Barrows, please visit her Avvo.com profile.

What are geographic restriction orders affecting children in Texas family law cases? 
 

One of the more contentious issues in Texas family law cases is where a child may travel and reside. Before the court makes any order regarding the child, both parents have equal right to take a child wherever they want. After the court orders a limitation on travel and a restriction on where the child may live and go to school, there are consequences for violating the order of the court. It is important and often standard to seek a temporary order setting geographic restrictions, early in the family law matter, to prevent the other parent from removing a child from the current area of residence or outside the State of Texas.

Initial temporary and standing court orders are important to the travel and residential restrictions for children in family law cases, especially when one parent is a flight risk.

In some cases, one of the parents wants to move to another part of the state or out-of-state, near friends or family, because of a divorce. If that parent takes their child to another place before there is a court order regarding the child, it may be more difficult to compel the return of the child. If the petition for divorce or custody has not been filed yet, the parent moving to a new area or out-of-state, if in the new location long enough, could file a family law action in their new location and ask that court to take jurisdiction over the child and the underlying case. If one parent suspects the other might flee the area and take the child, it is important to act quickly in filing the case and seeking an court order establishing geographic restrictions.

A parent is free to travel and move where they like, but the child is not, because the court’s geographic restriction orders specifically state where the child may travel, and where they may reside, within an often set number of miles from a certain location, or within the limits of a county. During the divorce the court usually restricts a child’s travel to the State of Texas, unless the parents otherwise agree; often called standing orders. A standing order may also require the parent with visitation rights, to share phone numbers, locations and the whereabouts of the child at certain times.

Modifying and enforcing the geographic restrictions in the order of the court

The court’s order will state which parent has the right to determine where the child may travel and where they will reside. Within the geographic restrictions, the parent with rights to determine residence may move wherever they want. If however, that parent demonstrates a significant reason to move beyond the geographic restrictions, they may file a motion with the court to modify the geographic restrictions. In some cases, there are no geographic restrictions and others where there are general or very specific limitations.

If either parent does not obey the limits of a geographic restriction, there may be a court action to find the offending parent in contempt of court, to compel a parent to return the child, and a modification to the court’s order with greater restrictions or requiring supervised visitation. Even if the primary parent with right to chose residence, moves beyond the geographic restrictions, they may be forced to move back or risk losing the right to have the child live with them. At all times, the courts focus on the best interests of a child and the security of their development with family and their community.

The Barrows Firm is a resource for parents seeking information, advice and representation in protecting the best interests of their children in divorce and family law cases, where there may be issues involving the travel and residence of a child.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. To read client endorsements and reviews of Attorney, Leslie Barrows, please visit her Avvo.com profile.

 

Texas wiretapping: One-party consent required to record conversations 
 

Recording conversations, to use in legal strategy and submit as evidence in court, is illegal in the State of Texas, unless one party to the conversation consents. You may record your own conversation with another person, without their knowledge or consent, but you may not record two or more other people unless one of the people in the conversation consents to a recording. There are a few exceptions to this rule, and special rules for recording court hearings and public meetings. Individuals who violate the Texas Wiretapping Law may be subject to criminal penalties and civil fines.  While open communication can be useful in many legal cases, the Texas Wiretapping Law can be a double-edged sword. It is always best not to say anything to people that you would not want others to know.

The one-party consent rule and exceptions

The Texas Wiretapping Law, a one-party consent law, makes it a crime to record any “wire, oral, or electronic communication” unless one party to the conversation consents.[i] You may consent to record yourself in your own conversations with others. You may also obtain prior permission from one of the people in a conversation, to record their conversation with others. You may not, however, spy on and record the conversations of others, where they do not give you prior consent to record the conversation.

An exception to the consent requirement occurs when you record a conversation in which the people speaking do not have an “expectation that such communication is not subject to interception under circumstances justifying such exception.[ii]” This exception applies when the people having the conversation do not have an expectation to privacy, for example, in an elevator with other passengers, on a train or plane with other people nearby, in clear earshot, or in any other setting where people not involved in the conversation can clearly hear what is being said and there is no effort to keep the conversation private.

Recording court hearings and open meetings

When a court reporter is not available, or where you want your own independent recording of what happens at a court hearing, you may be allowed to record conversations and testimony in court, depending on the rules of the court. Each local court has its own rules for conduct in the courtroom, and recording may or may not be allowed by local court rules. In state trial courts in Texas you can record audio and video if you first obtain consent by the trial court judge, the parties and witnesses you plan to record. At the Texas appellate court you may record audio and video if you first submit a written request within 5 days of the court proceeding. In Texas federal courts you may not record any audio or video, it is strictly prohibited.

Recording meetings in Texas is allowed when the meeting is open to the public and subject the Texas Open Meetings Act. The use of audio and video may be limited based on the imposition of “reasonable rules to maintain order in a meeting.[iii]” In order to record an open meeting, you must be present at the meeting and be the one in control of the audio and, or video recording equipment.

Violating and challenging the Texas Wiretapping Law

Restating that the general rule of law in Texas is that it is illegal to record (or intercept) the communications of others, unless one of the parties gives consent, there are criminal and civil penalties and liabilities for violating the Texas Wiretapping Law. An offense of the Texas Wiretapping Law can be a second-degree felony, or a state jail felony in under certain circumstances, as identified in the Texas Penal Code.

Additionally, A party to a communication may sue a person who: “(1)  intercepts, attempts to intercept, or employs or obtains another to intercept or attempt to intercept the communication; (2)  uses or divulges information that he knows or reasonably should know was obtained by interception of the communication;  or (3)  as a landlord, building operator, or communication common carrier, either personally or through an agent or employee, aids or knowingly permits interception or attempted interception of the communication.[iv]

The facts and circumstances in each instance of recording audio and video of conversations and others may be subject to a legal defense or challenge, when suing or defending under the Texas Wiretapping Law. Issues of consent and intent to give consent or record can all be the subject of disagreement and may be properly decided by a judge or jury.

The Barrows Firm attorneys promote being knowledgeable about Texas laws such as the Texas Wiretapping Law, because ignorance of the law is no defense.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. To read client endorsements and reviews of Attorney, Leslie Barrows, please visit her Avvo.com profile.

 

[i] Texas Penal Code, Section 16.02

[ii] Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Section 18.02

[iii] Texas Government Code, Section 551.023

[iv] Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, Section 123.001

PODCAST: Involuntary mental health commitments with Fort Worth Attorney Leslie Barrows 
 

The Barrows Firm Law Review is a monthly Internet radio show podcast featuring information about Texas family, criminal, juvenile, probate and estate planning law and events. Attorney Leslie Barrows is our featured guest today as she shares insight and information about involuntary mental health commitments and families making tough decisions.

Involuntary mental health commitments with Fort Worth Attorney Leslie Barrows

  • Mental health and care needs at various ages and circumstances
  • Describing the facilities and care options available to individuals
  • Texas law, Mental Health Code and Code of Criminal Procedure
  • Approaching mental health commitments for short-term reasons
  • Long-term considerations for mental health commitments
  • Steps to take when considering taking action in seeking a commitment

Leslie Barrows is the principal founder of The Barrows Firm in Fort Worth, Texas. In her firm’s main practice areas of family law, criminal defense and juvenile law, Leslie is consistently challenged with dynamic cases and clients. When winning is what matters, many in the Fort Worth area go to The Barrows Firm based on their reputation an winning track record over the past decade. Leslie Barrows earned her undergraduate degree from Sam Houston State University and she earned her law degree from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. She is a member of numerous organizations primarily focused in Tarrant County.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. To read client endorsements and reviews of Attorney, Leslie Barrows, please visit her Avvo.com profile.

 

Involuntary mental health commitments in Texas 
 

Among individuals committing crimes and those with a criminal history, mental illness may be a commonly overlooked factor behind criminal conduct. Mental health problems, when untreated, can lead to imprisonment, homelessness and even death. Veterans of our U.S. armed services frequently suffer from temporary and permanent conditions making life after service a daily challenge. Family members can play a role in helping their relative get help and treatment through private and state-operated facilities. There are specific laws and procedures when an individual seeks the involuntary mental health commitment of another in the State of Texas. The decision to seek a commitment is not an easy decision, but it can save a life, especially when the individual may be dangerous to themselves and others.

In Texas, court-ordered mental health services, involuntary commitments, are pursuant to the Texas Mental Health Code.[i]

A county or district attorney or other adult may apply for court-ordered mental health services. The application, except when filed by a county or district attorney, must include a certificate of medical examination by a physician. The application must specify whether the order requested is for temporary or extended mental health services.

Probable Cause Hearing

When an event gives rise to the detention of a patient, often following an incident where the patient presented a threat of harm to themselves or others, a probable cause hearing must be held within 72 hours of the detention. The probable cause hearing takes place before an available magistrate or justice of the peace. The probable cause hearing allows the state to present a physician’s Certificate of Medical Exam and supporting affidavit. At the probable cause hearing, the Application for Detention, filed by the county or district attorney, or other adult, is reviewed. The applicant, patient, friends and family may also present their testimony at the probable cause hearing. At the hearing’s conclusion, the court will appoint a guardian ad litem to represent the detained patient during the remaining process, if the court finds that an order for continued detention is appropriate on the facts and circumstances.

Final Hearing

Before the probable cause hearing takes place, the court schedules a final hearing, to take place within 30 days of the filing of the original commitment application. Pending examination, treatment and observation may be cause for the court to continue the final hearing as necessary. The final hearing is more formal and takes place before a judge and the Texas rules of evidence apply. The examining physician, social worker(s), health care professional(s), friends, family members and the patient may testify at the final hearing. The judge makes a finding whether the patient is mentally ill and likely to cause harm to themselves, to others, or is in a state of deterioration, based on temporary or longer lasting conditions that substantially affect the patient’s ability to function normally. The judge may sign a final order of commitment and the patient may be committed to a state hospital, designed to be a therapeutic community, for the duration and under the conditions of the final order.

Other types of involuntary commitments and court proceedings

There are other types of commitment hearings available to protect the health and safety of the patient and others. A forced medications hearing[ii] may be held to obtain a court order authorizing the administration of psychoactive medication, most often for a patient already ordered to impatient mental health services.

When a criminal defendant is charged with felony or misdemeanor punishable by jail or imprisonment, a competency hearing is held to determine whether the individual defendant is incompetent to stand trial, where they are unable to understand a consultant with an attorney, unable to understand the charges against them, for example[iii]. Criminal commitments follow the Texas rules of criminal procedure and are formal, much like the civil involuntary commitment hearings mentioned in this article.

The Barrows Firm attorneys advise and represent individuals and family members involved in the process of involuntary mental health commitments and have additional resources available.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. To read client endorsements and reviews of Attorney, Leslie Barrows, please visit her Avvo.com profile.

 

[i] Texas Mental Health Code, Section 574.001 et seq

[ii] Texas Mental Health Code, Section 574.106

[iii] Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Chapter 46B

Image Source: Huffington Post http://bit.ly/1SCxbo2

Updating estate planning and insurance documents after divorce 
 

Divorce and remarriage are significant events affecting estate planning and insurance plans and conditions. Texas law presumes that what is written in an individual’s will, trust, power of attorney, and insurance beneficiary designations, is intended to survive as originally written, regardless of a substantial change in life circumstances. If we fail to update our estate planning and insurance, we could leave our families with significant and unexpected peril in the event we die or become temporarily incapacitated and cannot manage our affairs. From the care of children to the disposition of assets and money, there are several important reasons to update estate planning and insurance after a divorce or remarriage.

Wills and trusts should be updated after a divorce or remarriage.

When we make our last will and testaments it is customary to identify your spouse by name, instead of stating that we wish to give our assets and property to “spouse at time of death,” which might not stand up in court in a will contest. The main point of a will is to specifically identify exactly how we want our affairs and assets distributed upon our death. Since we name beneficiaries in our will, we should update those beneficiaries when we divorce or remarry, and if we fail to do so, our ex-spouse will still take under the will and there is nothing anyone can do about it. A divorce or remarriage will not override what is written in a will, by operation of law.

The care and custody of our children is another important consideration when updating wills and estate planning documents. Imagine your will was written several years ago when you were married, and at the time you named your then sister-in-law to be the custodian of your minor children in the event of your death or incapacity. Assume for this example, you are divorced and no longer in good relations with your now ex-sister-in-law. If your ex-spouse is deceased or no longer has parental rights, and you die or become incapacitated, the ex-sister-in-law will become your children’s custodian, if that is what the will says.

Power of attorney of healthcare and financial affair documents should be updated after divorce or remarriage.

Remember that vacation to Europe you took with your wife when you all were still happily married? Remember the power of healthcare you signed, appointing the ex-sister-in-law with the power to make health related decisions in the event you or your wife were able to do so? Assume you divorced your wife and the relationships with the in-laws are no longer positive. All you need is to be in a car wreck one day and in critical condition, on life support. Do you trust your ex-sister-in-law, the one who testified against you in the custody hearing? What if she is in control of your finances as well, spending all your savings on experimental treatments? If you make it, will there be any money left? The court will not override your previous power of attorney elections. Everyone should update power of attorney documents when they divorce or remarry.

Insurance policies and beneficiary designations should be updated after divorce or remarriage.

In most divorce cases, especially involving children, one spouse or parent may be ordered to maintain insurance to protect themselves and the children. Courts typically enter orders regarding life insurance, homeowners, medical, eye and dental insurance. When the topic of insurance arises out of divorce or remarriage, it is important to update the beneficiary elections on policies. It is very easy to overlook the “pay on death” designations in insurance policies, especially if they were made many years ago.

To prevent life insurance proceeds from going to an ex-spouse, remember to update the beneficiary designations so that in the event of death or incapacity, your proper beneficiaries receive policy proceeds, not an ex-spouse or significant other you dated several years ago. Imagine in a worst-case scenario that an ex-spouse considers you worth more dead than alive, and they know they are still the named policy beneficiary. Everyone should update their insurance policies and beneficiary designations when they divorce or remarry.

The Barrows Firm attorneys promote being proactive and avoiding unnecessary family emergencies by keeping estate planning and insurance policies up to date, reflecting divorce and remarriage.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. To read client endorsements and reviews of Attorney, Leslie Barrows, please visit her Avvo.com profile.

 

Financial issues in divorce and family law with Fort Worth Attorney Leslie Barrows 
 

The Barrows Firm Law Review is a monthly Internet radio show podcast featuring information about Texas family, criminal, juvenile, probate and estate planning law and events. Attorney Leslie Barrows is our featured guest today as she shares insight and information about the financial issues and concerns of men, women and families in divorce and family law cases.

Financial issues in divorce and family law with Fort Worth Attorney Leslie Barrows

  • Financial disclosures and the discovery process in divorce and family law
  • Asset evaluations and classifications of joint marital or separate individual property
  • Income issues and determinations in divorce, child support, other family law matters
  • Tax issues in divorce including filing status, claiming dependent exemptions, negotiating tax issues and liabilities
  • Updating your will, estate planning documents and insurance policies after a divorce

Leslie Barrows is the principal founder of The Barrows Firm in Fort Worth, Texas. In her firm’s main practice areas of family law, criminal defense and juvenile law, Leslie is consistently challenged with dynamic cases and clients. When winning is what matters, many in the Fort Worth area go to The Barrows Firm based on their reputation an winning track record over the past decade. Leslie Barrows earned her undergraduate degree from Sam Houston State University and she earned her law degree from the Oklahoma City University School of Law. She is a member of numerous organizations primarily focused in Tarrant County.

If you would like more information about The Barrows Firm, P.C., please contact the firm by calling (817) 481-1583. The Barrows Firm is located downtown Fort Worth at 500 East Belknap Street, near the Tarrant County Courthouse and the Tarrant County Family Law Center.

You can follow The Barrows Firm on social media and find important articles and resources about Texas law and how it may affect you or your family. The Barrows Firm is on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. To read client endorsements and reviews of Attorney, Leslie Barrows, please visit her Avvo.com profile.