Feeding Dog at the Table

One of the joys after a Texas legislative session is searching for gems hidden amongst the hundreds of newly passed bills. Here are just a few changes wrought by the 88th Legislature.

Jury Service Eligibility

Your eligibility for jury service increased by half a decade. The age for qualifying for an automatic exemption from serving on a jury increased from 70 to 75. HB 2015, effective September 1, 2023.

Posting Personal Information on a Public Website

Think twice before “doxing,”:  posting an individual’s personal information on a website without permission. It is now a crime to post a residence address or telephone number on a publicly accessible website with the intent to cause harm or threat of harm to the individual or a member of the individual’s family or household. It’s a Class B misdemeanor, or a Class A if bodily injury occurs. Of course, the ensuing lawsuit against you may be more painful than the criminal penalty. HB 611, effective September 1, 2023.

Durable Power of Attorney Agent Benefits

Agents acting under a Durable Power of Attorney received some nice benefits. The first is designed to deter family members and others from harassing the agent. It provides that a court can award costs and attorneys’ fees as deemed equitable and just when a person files an action questioning the actions of an agent under a Durable Power of Attorney. 

The second expands the definition of the grant of authority to an agent over “business operation transactions” to transactions beyond just those in a partnership, such as those concerning a limited liability company. 

The third provides that an agent can execute a disclaimer, per a grant of authority to do so under the Durable Power of Attorney, without first having to obtain court approval. 

The fourth authorizes a court to suspend, instead of revoke, the Durable Power of Attorney during a permanent guardianship. This is important because it leaves the door open to having the court later restore rights to the ward, should the situation change and the Durable Power of Attorney becomes a viable alternative to the guardianship. SB 1650, effective September 1, 2023. 

Service Animal Crackdown

Forget about trying to bring your untrained dog into a restaurant masquerading as a service animal. You can be fined up to $1,000 and sentenced to 30 hours of community service for intentionally representing that an animal is an assistance animal or service animal when the animal is not specially trained or equipped to help a person with a disability. HB 4164, effective September 1, 2023.

Election Polls Priority for Those With Mobility Problems

Bring your walker or cane to the polls. An election officer is required to give priority to a person with a mobility problem that substantially impairs that person’s ability to move around. Plus, there must be at least 1 parking space reserved for use by a voter who is unable to enter the polling space. There must be either a posted sign with a telephone number to call or text, or a button or intercom available to push, to request assistance. SB 477, effective June 18, 2023.

Reimbursement Claims

Have you been working without pay for the business your spouse owned before marriage? Congratulations, you are the owner of a reimbursement claim. The law defining reimbursement claims has been completely rewritten. It contains lots of litigation-worthy words like “equitable principles,” “unjust enrichment”, “value,” and “offset.” Even more fun, it applies to both divorce and probate proceedings. The new law applies to both pending and new claims. HB 1547, effective September 1, 2023. 

Oh, and Texas budgeted another $3 billion for new mental health facilities and services.

Do You Need Estate Planning Assistance? Hammerle Finley Can Help

If you have estate planning questions, schedule a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys to discuss your options.

Attorney Virginia Hammerle, of Hammerle Finley Law Firm, is in her fifth decade of law practice. She is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law and an Accredited Estate Planner. Reach her at legaltalktexas@hammerle.com. This column does not constitute legal advice.