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SECTION spotlight

Probate, Trusts & Estates Section:


A Year Navigating the Pandemic

The Houston Lawyer

By Paul D. Strug

s it has for all the sections of the Houston Bar Association, security protection and remediation for businesses, including law firms, this past year has presented unique challenges for the Prothat have been victims of such an attack. John shared recent high-profile bate, Trusts & Estates Section. For many years, the Section ransomware attacks and phishing attacks, as well as some alarming stamembers have gathered on the last Tuesday of each month, tistics and trends. He also offered some practice tips for Section members September through May, for some to consider in order to prevent a cyber-attack continuing education, followed by an opporand to mitigate damages and loss of data if tunity to network and visit with fellow memsuch an attack does occur. bers of the Section. Throughout my tenure as The four Harris County Probate Court Chair, we have not been able to continue with judges, and their wonderful staff, have any in-person gatherings; as such, our suite worked diligently to allow the probate process of programming has moved entirely online. to continue as efficiently as can be permitted While the pandemic has affected every during the pandemic. As such, hearings via member of the HBA, it did have some unique Zoom have become a regular occurrence— considerations for members of the Probate, in fact, many practitioners have commented Trusts & Estates Section. For those members that their clients prefer a Zoom probate hearwhose practice is focused on estate planning, ing instead of navigating downtown Housthe inability to meet clients in person has ton, parking, and the courthouse. In June, Probate Judge Jason Cox tweets about the Jeopardy game made executing documents far more difficult. that Harris County Probate Judges participated in as part of the Harris County Probate Court judges parThis was coupled with the fact that many in- the HBA Probate, Trusts & Estates Section’s April program. ticipated in a panel discussion hosted by the dividuals sought to get their wills and ancillary planning documents finalHouston Bar Association to inform local attorneys about practicing before ized and executed, as they began to understand the severity and spread their Courts during the then-current shutdown. Additionally, the Probate, of Covid-19. Fortunately, Governor Abbot relaxed some of the rules that Trusts and Estates Section hosted its annual judges panel on April 27 to require the physical presence for a notary on certain estate planning docuallow Section members to hear any further updates, and to gain some adments. This allowed for some greater flexibility for Section members to acditional practice insight from the Harris County Probate Court judges. commodate their client’s planning needs. With this backdrop, the Section The balance of the Section’s programming this year has been focused kicked off its programming year by hosting (on YouTube) Bill Pargaman, on various core components of estate planning and probate law, including a partner with the firm of Saunders, Norval, Pargaman & Atkins. Bill foDavid Johnson speaking about Trust Administration, Nolan Moullé offercused on the impact of the pandemic on the estate planning practice and ing insights on the SECURE Act, Keri Brown providing a current update some options for getting documents executed. Bill’s presentation was acfrom the Tax Court, and Professor Gerry Beyer entertaining the Section companied with A Guide to Executing Estate Planning Documents in Uncermembers with his case law update. tain Times, which has proven to be a valuable resource for Section members If you are interested in becoming a member of the Probate, Trusts and throughout the pandemic. Estates Section, or for more information about the programs planned for Another common theme of Section members during the pandemic was the balance of this year, please visit how many of us were working remotely —from a home office, kitchen table, or anywhere else in the house with some privacy and a strong WiPaul D. Strug is chair of the Probate, Trusts and Estates Section of the Houston Fi connection. To provide guidance as more and more work was being Bar Association. He is a shareholder at Weycer, Kaplan, Pulaski & Zuber, P.C., handled in such a fashion, the Section asked John Ansbach to speak about and is board certified in estate planning and probate law by the Texas Board of cybersecurity concerns and considerations. John is an attorney currently Legal Specialization. Strug focuses his practice on estate planning, probate, and working with Stroz Friedberg, a division of AON, with a focus on cybertrust administration.

40 May/June 2021