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The law firm of Farrow-Gillespie & Heath LLP is a premiere Dallas law firm for probate proceedings. Led by former Probate Judge Chris Wilmoth, the probate section of the FGH firm serves the Dallas area, including the counties of Dallas, Collin, Rockwall, Tarrant, Kaufman, and Denton.
From a simple, valid Will naming an independent executor, to a complicated family scenario where no Will can be found, our attorneys will guide you through probate quickly and efficiently. Many probate proceedings can be handled for a cost-effective fixed fee.
When the stakes are high, the award-winning attorneys at Farrow-Gillespie & Heath LLP bring expertise and experience to will contests and trust litigation. In addition to representation by highly successful litigation attorneys, our clients receive the insights of a former probate judge.
Guardianships to protect the elderly and incapacitated are a core component of what we do. When a guardianship proceeding is amicable and agreed, we provide caring and efficient counsel. When a guardianship is contested, we bring the sway and expertise of a former probate judge and highly experienced litigation attorneys.
In Texas, probate of a valid Will is relatively quick and easy compared to other states. Probate is usually necessary if the Decedent owned property for which title must be transferred, or had accounts that were not payable on death to another person. The probate courts of North Texas require that a person probating a Will must be represented by an attorney. Accordingly, the first step in determining what level of probate, if any, must be initiated, is to contact a probate attorney.
In the event an executor or agent acting under a power of attorney, or any other fiduciary, engages in unauthorized conduct that benefits himself or herself, or otherwise does not carry out his or her duties appropriately, persons who have an interest in the principal’s estate (such as heirs at law or beneficiaries) may sue for breach of fiduciary duty and possible other causes of action. FGH is experienced and effective in handling fiduciary litigation.
In Texas, modern trust rules facilitate modification, termination, and revocation of trusts under certain circumstances. Depending on the facts of the case and the original terms of the trust, the trustee provisions and distribution provisions may be amended, or the trust may be “decanted” into a new trust with different terms. Our attorneys have significant experience with trust modification proceedings.
If a Decedent did not have a Will, the probate court will make a determination of the identity of the Decedent’s heirs for distribution of his or her property according to intestate succession under Texas law. If a Will cannot be found, the spouse and/or descendants of a Decedent should consult a probate attorney to determine who will inherit, and how to proceed with an application for determination of heirship. The court will appoint an attorney ad litem to investigate the identity of any additional heirs not before the court.
In the event a Will’s validity or content is challenged, a will contest occurs. A Will can be contested on grounds that the Decedent lacked capacity or was under undue influence at the time of execution, that the Will is ambiguous or is a forgery, or for a number of other reasons. It is not unusual for a will contest to proceed to a jury trial. For parties contesting a Will or defending a Will, it is important to have counsel experienced not only in the probate courts, but experienced as trial lawyers in complex litigation.
When an elderly or disabled person no longer has the capacity to care for himself or herself, or no longer has the capacity to handle his or her own finances, it is possible to petition the probate court to appoint a guardian for that person. A trusted individual may be appointed guardian of the person (with decision-making authority over the residence and care of the incapacitated person), the guardian of the estate (with control of the incapacitated person’s finances and business), or both. Guardianship proceedings typically take some time to be finalized, but in the event of imminent harm, a temporary immediate guardianship is available under Texas law.
If the only property for which title needs to be transferred at the death of Decedent is his or her home, an abbreviated form of probate is available in Texas. The proceeding is called “Probate of a Will as Muniment of Title.” It is typically less expensive and takes a shorter amount of time than a full-blown probate. This proceeding can also be implemented if too much time has passed after the Decedent’s death to initiate a normal probate proceeding.
Leah K. Lanier has joined the firm as an associate in probate and guardianship litigation. Ms. Lanier is a 2013 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. Before joining the firm, Leah was an associate at Johns, Marrs, Ellis & Hodge LLP in Houston, and she served as briefing attorney to Justice William J. Boyce, Fourteenth Court of Appeals.
Attorney Jessica Dunne has joined Farrow-Gillespie & Heath as an associate in the firm's probate section. Ms. Dunne is a 2011 graduate of Baylor Law School.
Senior associate Jennifer Lewis has become a partner with the firm. Jennifer practices estate planning, business and corporate law, probate law, and taxation. She has been with the firm since 2009.
Chris Wilmoth, formerly Judge of Dallas County Probate Court No. 2, has joined Farrow-Gillespie & Heath LLP as a partner. Mr. Wilmoth's practice focuses on will contests, trust litigation, and guardianship litigation. Before taking the bench, Chris was a litigation attorney with Baker & Botts.
Rhonda Hunter has been named to the list of Texas Super Lawyers (a Thomson Reuters service) for the 11th consecutive year. Ms. Hunter is a partner at FGH in probate litigation and family law.
Associate attorney Jennifer Lewis has been named for a second year as co-chair of the Dallas Association of Young Lawyer's Elderlaw Committee. Ms. Lewis practices in the areas of probate law, estate planning, and business transactions.
Partner Liza Farrow-Gillespie has been named to D Magazine's list of "Best Lawyers in Dallas" again for 2015 in the area of Wills and Trusts.
Attorney Christian S. Kelso has joined Farrow-Gillespie & Heath as Senior Counsel in estate planning and probate. In addition to a law degree, Mr. Kelso holds a Master of Laws in Taxation.
Rhonda Hunter is featured on the cover of the 2016 Texas Super Lawyer Magazine (a Thomson Reuters service), which compiles and lists the top 5% of attorneys in Texas, as nominated and elected by their peers. Also on the Super Lawyer list for 2016 are Liza Farrow-Gillespie, Julie Heath, and Scott Chase.