Experienced Houston Attorney Answers Frequently Asked Questions about Business Law, Estate Planning and Probate
With over 30 years in legal practice, Houston attorney Leigh Meineke has seen quite a lot. Whether your questions are simple or complex, common or novel, Ms. Meineke can readily assist you in solving your legal problems or meeting your legal needs. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions regarding Texas business law, estate planning and probate. If you have other questions or need immediate assistance, contact the Stephens | Domnitz | Meineke PLLC at 713-463-6000 to schedule a consultation.
Q. What type of business structure is right for me?
A. The entity you form to operate your business is a critical choice which will have implications for taxes, liability, daily operational decisions, business succession and more. At the Stephens | Domnitz | Meineke PLLC, we take the time to sit down with you and discuss your needs and goals, so that we can advise you on your options and guide you through the process of business entity formation with expertise and efficiency. Some of the most commonly used business structures in Texas include:
Sole Proprietorship – You are the sole owner of the business, with all the authority and all the responsibility. Little is required in the way of formal organization to operate as a sole proprietorship.
General Partnership – Two or more people own the business together. Each partner is exposed to liability for debts of the partnership.
Limited Partnership – Partners are designated as either general partners or limited partners. Limited partners have limited liability to creditors up to the amount of their investment. General partners have more liability but generally take a more active role in running the business.
Limited Liability Partnership – In an LLP, general partners may also benefit from some measure of protection against liability exposure.
Corporation – The corporation is a legal “person” that can sue and be sued, so the directors of the corporation are generally shielded from personal liability for corporate debts. However, directors may be subject to “double taxation,” since there is both a corporate income tax and a personal income tax which must be paid.
Limited Liability Company – An LLC offers its members the liability protection of a corporation with the single taxation of a partnership. It is also an asset protection tool. The LLC is managed by a managing member or members named in the forming documents. Members of an LLC can be individuals, partnerships, corporations or other legal entities.
Q. Is it better to have a will or a trust?
A. Both a will and a trust are important legal instruments that belong in most comprehensive estate plans, but trusts are not necessary for everyone. It is important to have a will to accomplish important tasks such as naming an executor for the estate, naming a guardian for any minor children, and ensuring that any property is left according to the testators wishes.
Q. How do I know if my will is valid?
A. For a will to be valid in the state of Texas, it must be in writing and signed by the person making the will (the testator) in the presence of two witnesses over the age of 14, who also sign the will. The testator must be at least 18 years old or have been lawfully married or a member of the armed forces. Everyone must sign before a notary. The testator must also intend to make a will and understand that he or she is making a will and its effect on the testator’s property. All of these formalities must be met in order to have a valid and enforceable last will and testament in Texas.
The best way to know that your will is valid is to have it drafted or reviewed by a trusted and experienced Texas estate planning attorney. A key reason to have a will in the first place is for peace of mind, and knowing that your will was carefully reviewed by a diligent, experienced attorney can give you that sense of security.
Q. What is a holographic will?
A. A holographic will is a will that is completely in the testator’s handwriting and signed by the testator. This type of will does not have to be witnessed in order to be valid in Texas. Holographic wills are accepted in the majority of states, but not all.
Q. What is a self-proving will?
A. In order for a will to be given effect, it must be entered into probate, which is a legal process supervised by the court to prove that the will is valid. Typically, the witnesses who signed the will must be called into court to testify about the signing of the will. However, if a “self-proving affidavit” regarding the will was signed and witnessed before a notary public, then the will is considered self-proving. In this case, the affidavit can be used as evidence of the will’s validity without having to call in witnesses to testify. This helps cut down the time and expense of probate.
Q. What is a Transfer on Death Deed?
A. It is a deed executed before death allowing real property owners to name a beneficiary to own the property after the property owner’s death.