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Jun 1, 2017

Today we're talking to my friend and Stamford, Texas attorney, James Decker. As you will see today, there is no one I know who loves Texas. Allsup's burritos, and the law more than James!  

James grew up in Stamford, Texas and after receiving his Agribusiness degree from Texas A&M and law degree from Texas Tech University, he returned home and hung out his own shingle.

Our main focus today is on settling an estate after someone has passed away. Particularly, we will focus on the probate process and on various statutory alternatives to probate here in Texas.

James offers the following advice for all people:  "Die with a will.  It's just easier on everyone."  I couldn't agree more!  We kick off our discussion by talking about intestate succession laws, meaning the applicable statutes that come into play to distribute assets when someone dies without a will.  As you will hear, this can cause significant issues and lead to disputes and added expenses that no one wants to leave behind.

Next, we turn to the Texas probate process and discuss what happens when someone dies with a will.  Specifically, we look at how a will generally makes its way through probate and then we look at an alternative method of probate, which James calls "express lane probate," the Probate by Muniment of Title.  As James points out, we are fortunate here in Texas to have a relatively user-friendly probate process and, unlike in some other states, it may be that going through the regular probate process is actually the cheapest, simplest option to settle an estate.  

Next, we turn to various probate alternatives.  These include transfer on death accounts, affidavits of heirship, small estate proceedings, heirship proceedings, life estates, and transfer on death deeds.  James walks us through the pros, cons, and requirements for each of these.

As always, we close the show by asking for a law that James would like to see changed.  He went with a law that is high up on my own wishlist and said that he would like to see some sort of surface damage act to protect surface owners in Texas when oil and gas production may occur on their land.  As he notes, Texas is basically the only major oil producing state without this type of legislation.  Hopefully one day, we'll see James in the Texas Senate to push this kind of bill through.

And finally, I asked for a restaurant recommendation and was given a litany on the best chicken fried steak in Texas, found at Jake and Dorothy's Cafe in Stephenville Texas.  It opened in 1948, and as James points out, they've been making chicken fried steaks successfully for 70 years!  Be sure to have room for the homemade pies when you go!


Contact info for James Decker



(Twitter)  @jamesdecker2006 


(Instagram) @jamesmdecker


Links to topics mentioned on the show

- Texas intestate succession statutes (the law that applies if someone dies without a will)

- Texas general probate statutes

- Texas Muniment of Title statute

- Texas Affidavit of Heirship statute

- Small Estate Proceeding statute

- Heirship Proceeding statute

- Texas Transfer on Death Deed statute

- O'Colly feature on James Washington