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What is an Estate Planning & Probate Law Board Certified Attorney?

An attorney who is Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Estate Planning & Probate Law must have counseled others on various estate matters, such as gifts, life insurance, trusts and business arrangements and agreements. The attorney must also have prepared estate documents such as wills and trusts and handled estate administration matters such as guardianships and the probate of wills and settlement of decedent’s estates. Finally, the attorney must have familiarity with the tax laws applicable to individuals, estates and trusts.

To become Board Certified in Estate Planning & Probate Law, an attorney must have:

  1. Been licensed to practice law for at least five years;
  2. Devoted a required percentage of practice to estate planning & probate law for at least three years;
  3. Handled a wide variety of estate planning & probate matters to demonstrate experience and involvement;
  4. Been evaluated by fellow lawyers and judges; and
  5. Passed an extensive written examination.

What is a Real Estate Law Board Certified Attorney?

A lawyer Board Certified in Real Estate Law must have experience in the law covering land and improvements and their use, acquisition, transfer, development and financing. The lawyer must also be knowledgeable in statutory law and governmental regulations concerning real estate and its use. There are subcategories in Real Estate Law of Commercial, Residential and Farm & Ranch Real Estate Law.

To obtain Board Certification in Real Estate Law, an attorney must have:

  1. Been licensed to practice law for at least five years;
  2. Practiced real estate law for at least three years;
  3. Devoted a minimum of 25% of their law practice to real estate;
  4. Handled a wide variety of real estate law matters to demonstrate experience and involvement;
  5. Attended real estate law continuing legal education seminars regularly to keep their legal training up to date;
  6. Been evaluated by fellow lawyers and judges; and
  7. Passed a day-long written examination plus an extra half-day long examination for each additional subcategory of real estate law.

There are over 80,000 attorneys licensed in Texas, only about 10% have earned the right to be publicly recognized as Board Certified specialists in one of the 20 select areas of law. Of that number, fewer than 900 are Board Certified in Estate Planning & Probate Law, approximately 450 are Board Certified in Residential Real Estate Law and approximately 700 are Board Certified in Commercial Real Estate Law. In Harris County, fewer than 500 attorneys are Board Certified in two areas of law and fewer than 200 are Board Certified in three areas of the law.

 Initial certification is valid for a period of five years. To remain certified, an attorney must apply for re-certification every five years and meet practice, peer review and continuing legal education requirements for the specialty field.

 The consumer can identify a Board Certified attorney in one of many ways. A Board Certified attorney is entitled to indicate certification on business cards and letterhead by stating “Board Certified – the area of certification – Texas Board of Legal Specialization.” The attorney may also display the Certificate of Special Competence awarded by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and list the certification in legal directories and telephone listings under “Attorneys – Board Certified.”

The Texas Board of Legal Specialization was created by and operates under the authority of the Supreme Court of Texas. Its members are appointed by the President of the State Bar of Texas.

Mr. Smith is triple board certified in Estate Planning & Probate Law, Commercial Real Estate Law & Residential Real Estate Law.

 What is the College of the State Bar?

The State Bar of Texas recognizes Texas lawyers who voluntarily attend at least double the minimum Continuing Legal Education (CLE) classes required by the State Bar of Texas. While the State Bar of Texas mandates that every licensed attorney complete at least fifteen hours of continuing legal education classes each year, the College requires its members to attend thirty hours per year. To maintain Board Certification, additional hours of CLE are required.

 As of the last report, the College of the State Bar of Texas was the only organization in the United States formed for the specific purpose of promoting and recognizing attorneys who strive to maintain and enhance their professional skills and the quality of their practice through voluntary participation in CLE  programs. Historically, only about 8% of the licensed attorneys in Texas meet the requirements for membership in the College of the State Bar of Texas. The motto of the College is: “Professionalism Through Education.”

Mr. Smith is a Fellow of College of the State Bar of Texas.

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