The Fort Sam Houston Legal Assistance Office offers free legal services to active duty personnel retired service members, as well as their dependents. The services offered by the office, as part of the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General's Corps, exemplify the government's commitment to the Soldier and the Soldier's family. This article highlights the services offered on post at the Legal Assistance Office and answers basic questions about common legal problems.
Over half of our clients seek help in estate planning. Most of these clients need assistance drafting wills. If your post-death estate is less than $2,000.000 (including life insurance), we can draft you will. If your estate is higher than that amount, you will be referred to a civilian estate planner. Once you estate exceeds $2,000.000, the government will tax the excess at approximately 50 %. For example, if you died with an estate of $3 million, the first $2,000,000 would pass to your heirs without tax while the remaining $1,000,000 would be taxed, giving about $500,000 to the government. To avoid these taxes, you should see an estate planner.
Drafting a will requires two appointments at our office:
(1) An initial meeting with an attorney to discuss how you would like to dispose of your property.
(2) A second meeting to review the will and have it executed, with the necessary formalities.
In addition to basic wills, Fort Sam Houston is the only military installation in the country to offer probate services. Once a person dies, his or her will is usually probated by the county probate court to transfer title of property and other assets pursuant to the will.
Our paralegal helps in the preparation of:
- Affidavits of heirship
- Small estate affidavits
- Muniments of title
- Applications for letters testamentary
- Orders for probate.
Our paralegal will also coordinate with the probate court to ensure the entire process runs smoothly.
Over one-fifth of our clients seek assistance for family matters, particularly divorce and related matters.
If you qualify, our office will prepare your divorce paperwork, including the petition and necessary affidavits. To qualify for a pro se divorce, you must satisfy the following requirements:
- No children
- You and Spouse agree to divorce
- Resident of Texas for at least six months and resident of County where you will be filing paperwork for the last 90 days
- No jointly held significant assets like real property
If you don't meet those requirements, we can advise you on Texas divorce law but you will ultimately be referred to a civilian attorney.
In divorce matters, we help clients prepare the paperwork for the court; the client is then responsible for filing with the document with the court and appearing before the judge. Under Army Regulations, JAG attorneys cannot appear in court for a client.
Attorneys in our office routinely assist clients who are in debt. Federal Law, including the Service members Civil Relief Act, can help Soldiers manage their debts. The Legal Assistance Office will also contact debtors to lower interest rates and negotiate settlement of debts. Soldiers still have to pay for goods and services received, but our attorneys can advise you of your rights and options.
Texas Law has set rules for the rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords. For example, before a tenant vacates a property, (S)he must give at least 30 days notice of intent to vacate; the tenant must give notice even if the time of the lease is up. Once a tenant vacates (after giving proper notice), the landlord must return the security deposit within 30 days or send the tenant a written explanation of why the deposit was withheld. If the landlord fails to do so, the tenant can recover $100 plus three times the portion of the deposit wrongfully withheld, and the tenant's reasonable attorney's fees in a suit to recover the deposit.
The Legal Assistance Office can also help prepare appeals to NCOER's and OER's, Article 139 decisions, letter and memoranda of reprimand, and reports of survey. If you are facing these issues, an attorney in legal assistance can walk you through the procedures and help you with your case.
The Legal Assistance Office also provides free notary services and assists with power of attorney on a walk-in basis. Finally, remember that the Legal Assistance Office was established to help the Soldier. We're here to answer legal questions and help resolve legal problems. We take our duty to the Soldier (both active and retired) and the Soldier's family very seriously and look forward to helping you in the future.
Please contact us at 210-221-2353/2282 for our hours of operation or to set up an appointment.