Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization
Frank B. Mapel III has been engaged in the private practice of law in Houston, Texas since 1982. He is Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law, and his practice includes estate planning, probate of wills, estate administration, prenuptial agreements, real estate, contracts and business entity planning.
His many years of experience have given him a keen awareness of the nuances of family relationships— too often overlooked in both estate and business planning. With a focus on the strengths and constraints of the family system, he is able to help clients balance their tax and business goals with the need to maintain family harmony. As a probate practitioner, Mr. Mapel has long experience with the challenging emotional and financial circumstances that accompany the death of a loved one, and his calm and compassionate nature helps his clients feel at ease during very trying times.
Mr. Mapel has been involved in numerous volunteer and charitable activities, including Child Advocates, Open Doors and Crisis Hotline, and has served as chairman of a State Bar of Texas grievance committee.
ON BEATING THE DEADLINE
(THAT’S DEADLINE, WITH A CAPITAL “D”)
For many people, estate planning or “getting one’s affairs in order” is the last thing they want to do. That is because they know that dying is the last thing they will do and — quite frankly — many of us are terrified of death. These chores can easily be put off until Thursday if you know you will die on Friday, but life rarely presents us with such a degree of certainty. One of the kindest and most loving things a person can do for his or her family is to prepare for the one event in life that cannot be avoided. Failing to do so will present grieving family members with a time-consuming and expensive chore that will only add to the pain of losing the loved one. Estate planning is easy to put off until tomorrow, but how many tomorrows can we be sure we have? I am able to do most estate-planning services on a flat-fee basis, and the entire process can be finished in a relatively short period of time. If your situation involves difficult issues that can’t be resolved on a flat-fee basis, I’ll let you know well ahead of time.
THE PROBATE PROCESS
(SOMETHING TO BE AVOIDED?)
“Probate” is a term unfamiliar to most people, and it is often misunderstood. Probate is simply the legal procedures that accompany the settlement of one’s affairs after death, including payment of just debts, filing final tax returns and distributing your property to its rightful owners. Texas has long had some of the most liberal probate laws in the country, and if someone properly plans his or her estate ahead of time, the costs and duration of the probate process are minimal. Some people choose, for various reasons, to circumvent the probate process by utilizing lifetime trusts to accomplish the goal of settling their estates. This form of planning is generally more expensive than going through the probate process, but some people have very good reasons for doing so. I consult with clients to help them determine which planning method will best suit their particular needs, whether it be through the use of a will or a lifetime trust, and the initial consultation will be free of charge.
FORMING A SMALL BUSINESS
(A CONFUSING ALPHABET SOUP)
When I first began practicing law, in the early 1980’s, there were limited choices available for the formation of an entity to operate a business. There was the corporation, which could be treated as either an “S corporation” or a “C corporation” for federal tax purposes, and the limited partnership (“LP”). One could also do business as a general partnership or a sole proprietorship, but neither of these provide protection from creditors (a “corporate shield”), thus limiting their utility. Today there are more choices, which is a good thing, but more choices result in added complexity. Along with the traditional forms for doing business, a business owner may now choose to do business as a limited liability company (“LLC”), a limited liability partnership (“LLP”) or a limited liability limited partnership (“LLLP”). Federal tax law adds another level of complexity by allowing some of these entities to choose to be taxed as if they were one of the other entities. For example, a LLC, which is normally taxed as a partnership, can elect to be treated as either an S corporation or a C corporation for federal tax purposes. The greater number of choices now available for the formation of an entity to operate a business provides greater flexibility for planning purposes, but confusion is the inevitable result of added choice. Even many lawyers don’t understand the differences. I am available to help you sort through the many choices now available, so you can make an informed decision that will best fit your needs.
- Martindale-Hubbell rated AV® Preeminent™ – An AV® certification mark is a testament to the fact that a lawyer’s peers rank him at the highest level of professional excellence.
PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATIONS AND MEMBERSHIPS:
- State Bar of Texas, Member
- Houston Bar Association, Member