Terry Lynn Garrett

Terry Lynn Garrett

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  • Estate Planning, Elder Law, Probate
  • New York, Texas
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Terry Garrett advises people in Central Texas who are preparing for and enjoying their retirement years and people with special needs and their families. Her clients range from couples who are just starting out and people who want to stay in charge during retirement to families with multinational businesses. Having worked and studied in Asia for many years, she also enjoys advising on transnational planning. Terry Garrett graduated with honors from Cornell University. She was on the Dean's List at Wharton Business School. She earned her J.D. at Columbia Law School, receiving the Parker Award and a Melon Fellowship. She attended the Harvard Law School Negotiation Program and earned every certificate offered by the New York Institute of Finance. She is active in the Texas and Austin Bar Associations and a member of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. She is an Approved Guardianship Attorney and is appointed by Central Texas courts in heirship proceedings. She handles pro bono cases for Volunteer Legal Services, the Austin Bar Association and the Women's Resource Fair. Mother of a child with special needs, she also teaches for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Over the years she has volunteered for the Council on Adoptable Children, the AFS foreign exchange student program, Cornell Cares, Hands on Housing and as an officer of the Harmony PTO.

Practice Areas
  • Estate Planning
  • Elder Law
  • Probate
Additional Practice Area
  • Special Needs Planning
  • Credit Cards Accepted
Jurisdictions Admitted to Practice
New York
  • Chinese
  • Japanese
Professional Experience
The Garrett Law Firm, PLLC
Columbia University
J.D. (1983) | law
Honors: Parker Award, Mellon Fellowship
Activities: President, International Law Society; International Law Review, Environmental Law Review; Chinese and Japanese law study groups
Professional Associations
National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys
Texas State Bar # 24048146
- Current
Austin Bar Association
- Current
Websites & Blogs
Legal Answers
502 Questions Answered

Q. Does my will need to be probated?
A: If there is a Will, it needs to be probated. Why? Because Wills get lost, people remember what they say differently, and a "Will" may not really be a Will. But with the assets you describe, you may not want to have a Will at all. In Texas, if there is no Will and you leave no more than a home, up to $60,000 in household goods and personal effects, and no more than $75,000 in other property (such as a car and a bank account), your heirs can agree to pay any outstanding debts and divide the remainder according to the Texas laws of descent and distribution. They and two witnesses who will not inherit and who can state that they are the heirs and the only heirs must sign an Affidavit of Small Estate before a notary public and file it with the local probate court. The property must be specifically described, with the car's VIN, the name of the bank and last four digits of the account, etc. This form of probate does not require a hearing and is significantly cheaper and faster than probating a Will even if your heirs pay a lawyer to look over a form to make sure that they got everything right.
Q. My elderly parents bought me this home seven years ago when I escaped an abusive husband.
A: All too often caregiving children err by relying on a "tacit agreement," as if having a written family caregiving agreement would not protect everyone. Without one, you are left submitting a claim to the estate as an unsecured creditor -- one that may only be accepted if you have documented your duties and hours and skills and shown that you did not simply do what someone would expect of a loving child.
Q. Does a letter to beneficiaries need to be sent after probate if it is intestate?
A: In an intestacy the heirs (beneficiaries) are notified before the hearing. They are given the opportunity to sign Distributee's Agreements and Waivers of Notice [of hearing].
Q. My husband died intestate in Texas June 8,2017. He had 2 children by previous marriage. If no one protest by the end of
A: No, they are still your husband's heirs and entitled to his 50% community property interest in, for example, you home although you have a right to live in it for life. All waiting four years (and hoping that they wait four years) does is mean that the estate must be probated as a muniment (defense) of title. Contact a local probate lawyer and probate your husband's estate.
Q. My Mom has a will for my sister & I to get her house when she dies. She is in a nursing home & Medicaid pays & most of
A: In Texas Medicaid can recover from the estate which passes under the Will. We have two forms of deed which pass title outside the Will. If your mother has legal capacity to sign a deed or has appointed an agent under a Durable Power of Attorney, contact a local elder law attorney about getting one of these in place. Use the Find a Lawyer function on the website of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (
Q. If someone is incapable of filling out papers who is responsible for bill? The person filling papers out or the patient?
A: If she signed as "agent," her sister, the principal, is responsible. If she signed as "responsible party," the nursing home will try to argue that she is. This is an all-too-common scam: nursing homes would much prefer to receive the higher private pay rate from family members than the lower Medicaid rate for which the vast majority of residents are eligible, sooner or later. Ask a local elder lawyer to talk to the lawyer representing the nursing home. You can find one using the Find-a-Lawyer function on the website of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (
Q. if my aunt is not physically capable to make a decision and her sister signs for her is she legally responsible for the
A: Her sister should sign as "agent," not as "personal representative." If she has signed as "personal representative," ask an elder lawyer to straighten things out with the nursing home. You can find one on the website of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (
Q. my aunt was put into a nursing home and now the home has turned in the bill to a collection agency. who has to pay?
A: Your aunt's bill is your aunt's bill. She, or someone helping her, should talk with the nursing home social worker about applying for Medicaid. If she has over $2,000 in assets in addition to a house, car, household goods and a funeral plan or over $2,250 in monthly income, it may be worthwhile to talk with an elder law attorney. Use the Find a Lawyer function at, the website of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys.
Q. My father passed away 4 years ago and left his house to me and my kids. How can I put it under my name only?
A: If there was a Will, you can hire a local probate lawyer to probate it as a muniment (defense) of title and record the Court's judgment in the county deed records. If there was no Will, two witnesses who can testify that you are the heir and the only heir can sign an Affidavit of Heirship before a notary. You can record that in the county deed records. If five years pass with no one complaining that it is inaccurate, a court will enforce it.
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Contact & Map
The Garrett Law Firm, PLLC
4408 Spicewood Springs Rd.
Austin, TX 78759
Telephone: (512) 800-2420
Fax: (512) 870-9260