The best gift an Houston attorney can give is good, free legal advice. In the spirit of the Holiday season, we’ve put together some important estate planning, business ownership tips from a Houston business attorney , and general legal advice that can help with common legal questions.

Free Legal Advice 1: How to Set Up an Advance Directive to your Physician on Your Own

“Who will make my medical decisions if I’m incapacitated?”

We all have preferences regarding medical treatment, including what treatments to administer and when to administer them. These preferences can be communicated in an advance directive, also referred to as a directive to physician.

If you have a physician’s directive in place, your medical team will be required to follow your wishes regarding administration and withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment. If you become incapacitated or otherwise unable to make your own medical decisions without a directive in place, family members will have to make these decisions instead.

Advance directives are recommended for people with terminal health issues, where life-saving procedures may only delay death for a short time and cause excessive discomfort.

The attorneys at the Hap May Firm include physician directives in the estate planning package, but directives can be set up without an attorney’s guidance. In Texas, the relevant form is available on the state’s health and human services website. You’ll need a couple of witnesses present when you fill out the directive and a notary public to complete the process.

Once the physician directive is filled out, give a copy to loved ones, your primary care physician, and any individuals involved in medical treatment. Keep a copy for your own records, ideally in a secure place like a safe.

Free Legal Advice 2: How to Name a Beneficiary for a Vehicle in Harris County Texas

Free legal advice on filing a Texas title“Who will get my car when I pass away?”

Estate planning isn’t just for people with considerable assets and numerous beneficiaries. For example, most people own a vehicle, and that vehicle must be passed to another person if the original owner dies. In most cases, this is a spouse or adult children – the people you’d probably name first as beneficiaries.

However, the legal process involved in property transfers like these, known as probate, is expensive and time consuming. It may cost more than the vehicle itself is worth.

To prevent a vehicle from getting tied up in probate, Texas now allows vehicle owners to specify a beneficiary and update their vehicle title to include the beneficiary. In effect, any named beneficiary may continue using the vehicle after the original owner dies.

There are two documents needed to complete this process. They include:

  • Beneficiary Designation for a Motor Vehicle

This form is available through the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles website and is quick to fill out. You’ll need the vehicle identification number (VIN) and the beneficiary’s full legal name. When filling out this form, you may name a new beneficiary, change the beneficiary, or revoke all beneficiaries, meaning no one receives the vehicle when you die.

  • Application for Texas Title or Registration Form

You’ll also need the VIN and an ID to update the vehicle title. When sending in the form, make sure to apply for a title only and to state your reason for correcting the title and registration. In this case, you’ll state “beneficiary designation” as your reason.This form tells the DMV to include your beneficiary’s name on the title so they can continue using the vehicle should you pass away.

Once these forms are filled out, send the forms (along with a title application fee) to a county tax assessor-collector. They will eventually send a copy of the new title back with the beneficiary’s name included.

Free Legal Advice 3: How to Maintain Best Communication Practices

“How do I avoid accidentally saying something that could cause potential legal damage to myself or my company?”

In professional settings, a fundamental but often breached rule of communication is to say only what you need to say. This is especially true for anything put in writing, including texts and e-mails. In fact, this is a good practice to extend in all areas of your life where you are interacting with those outside your circle of trust. What you say through texts or e-mails is not private and may be used against you or your company. That information can be subpoenaed by a court, and if your signature line is present, it has the same power as writing your physical signature on paper. In other words, and especially relevant to business owners and professionals, anything you state in an e-mail is potentially legally binding if your signature line is present.

When professional communications cause legal blowback, it’s almost always because someone said more than they needed to. If you’re a business owner or represent the business through communication, maintain a neutral tone and do not say more than is necessary. Do not make accusations, resist being humorous and say exactly what you mean with a neutral tone.

Is the other party pressuring you for a quick response? Allow yourself the time to craft an appropriate response. Our free legal advice is if you’re drafting an important e-mail, or even brainstorming what needs to be said in an email that requires precise language, send a brief e-mail first to the recipient stating that you’re working on a follow-up communication with greater detail. This will give you time to get those details right before committing to anything in writing. The same advice goes to those dealing with extended family, ex-spouses, or anyone you may be dealing with in the community who expects some kind of commitment from you in writing. Don’t worry, we are not telling you to mince words or delay responses to your current spouse or children. Claims against household and nuclear family are limited in Texas. So, your daughter can’t sue you for promising to give her your car via text. But getting into the habit of practicing thinking before communicating, not making promises you can’t keep, and managing expectations is just general good advice no matter the parties involved or the circumstances.

Free Legal Advice 4: The Risks of a DIY Legal Approach: Working without an Attorney 

There are some legal processes a knowledgeable individual can handle on their own. However, there are advantages to hiring an attorney even when one isn’t strictly required. For example:

  • An attorney will ensure the legal work is correct

Estate planning and probate lawyers, as well as tax and business attorneys spend much of their time reviewing and developing legal documentation for their clients. They can be trusted to do the job reliably. If you’re intimidated by managing the process yourself, a trusted attorney can oversee the process.

  • An attorney can save their client time

It may not be a question of competence, but of time. Researching your legal options, tracking down the right forms, filling them out accurately, sending them in to the right agencies and tracking the process until it’s resolved takes time you may not have. If your schedule is a major consideration, it may be cost effective to hire an attorney even if you could DIY the process.

  • Houston attorney can provide long-term legal plan –

Attorneys know how to formulate a long-term plan for their clients. If you know additional legal decisions and questions will need answering in the future, an attorney can help answer them. In this way, your attorney will ensure your future goals are aligned with the steps you’re taking in the present.

 Need More Than Advice? Schedule a Free Consultation with a Trustworthy Attorney in Houston

If you’re facing important legal decisions or need ongoing attorney services, consider scheduling a consultation with a reputable attorney. During this consultation, the attorney will identify what legal services your situation will require, and whether the firm is equipped to provide those services. Whether you require an extensive estate plan, are looking to form a business, require tax planning services or have other legal needs, they can be properly assessed during a consultation and help you determine the next steps

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