TYLA Officers


Rebekah Steely Brooker, President


Dustin M. Howell, Chair


Sam Houston, Vice President


Baili B. Rhodes, Secretary


John W. Shaw, Treasurer


C. Barrett Thomas, President-elect


Priscilla D. Camacho, Chair-elect


Kristy Blanchard, Immediate Past President

TYLA Directors


Amanda A. Abraham, District 1


Sharesa Y. Alexander, Minority At-Large Director


Raymond J. Baeza, District 14

    Aaron J. Burke, District 5, Place 1

Aaron T. Capps, District 5, Place 2


D. Lance Currie, District 5, Place 3


Laura W. Docker, District 10, Place 1

    Andrew Dornburg, District 21
    John W. Ellis, District 8, Place 2
    Zeke Fortenberry, District 4

Bill Gardner, District 5, Place 4


Morgan L. Gaskin, District 6, Place 5

    Nick Guinn, District 18, Place 1

Adam C. Harden, District 6, Place 6


Amber L. James, District 17


Curtis W. Lucas, District 9

    Rudolph K. Metayer, District 8, Palce 1

Laura Pratt, District 3

    Sally Pretorius, District 8, Place 2

Baili B. Rhodes, District 2


Alex B. Roberts, District 6, Place 3

    Eduardo Romero, District 19
    Michelle P. Scheffler, District 6, Place 2

John W. Shaw, District 10, Place 2

    Nicole Soussan, District 6, Place 4
    L. Brook Stuntebeck, District 11

C. Barrett Thomas, District 15

    Judge Amanda N. Torres, Minority At-Large Director

Shannon Steel White, District 12

    Brandy Wingate Voss, District 13
    Veronica S. Wolfe, District 18, Place 2

Baylor Wortham, District 7

    Alex Yarbrough, District 16


Justice Paul W. Green, Supreme Court Liaison


Jenny Smith, Access To Justice Liaison


Brandon Crisp, ABA YLD District 25 Representative


Travis Patterson, ABA/YLD District 26 Representative


Assistant Dean Jill Nikirk, Law School Liaison


Belashia Wallace, Law Student Liaison


TYLA Office

Tracy Brown, Director of Administration
Bree Trevino, Project Coordinator

Michelle Palacios, Office Manager
General Questions: tyla@texasbar.com

Mailing Address

P.O. Box 12487, Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711-2487
(800) 204-2222 ext. 1529
FAX: (512) 427-4117

Street Address

1414 Colorado, 4th Floor
Austin, Texas 78701
(512) 427-1529


Views and opinions expressed in eNews are those of their authors and not necessarily those of the Texas Young Lawyers Association or the State Bar of Texas.





























































Feature TYLA Project

Feature TYLA Project

Get Involved With the Court Visitor Program
By:  Steven Hallbauer, Lemons & Hallbauer, LLC

The Texas Probate Code requires that all wards subject to a court-approved guardianship be checked on by the court once a year. Because of limited resources available to complete this requirement, the responsibility often falls to volunteers who are willing to assist. More and more, Texas attorneys are stepping up to assist the court by becoming trained in how to properly conduct a Court Visit. TYLA has created a Ten Minute Mentor video and an accompanying pamphlet so that those attorneys who are willing to assist with this process have access to a quick resource on how to get involved.

For attorneys that wish to assist, the first step in completing a Court Visit is to contact the individual in charge of coordinating the county’s court visitor program. Larger counties are more likely to have a Probate Court Investigator’s Office, which is where volunteers usually begin their efforts. In smaller counties, where there are only courts of general jurisdiction, attorneys should inquire with the district clerk’s office as to the individual in charge of ward visits for the county. When volunteers first meet with the county’s program coordinator, they are encouraged to state that they have watched the Ten Minute Mentor introductory video and to ask about what further requirements are needed from the particular county and coordinator. Some counties conduct training sessions multiple times each year. Attorneys that complete the county’s prerequisite training requirements are then eligible to conduct a Court Visit.

The Court Visitor program coordinator assigns volunteer attorneys a ward to visit and provides a case file. A case file is the best source of preliminary information about a ward and guardian - it contains basic information about the ward and includes an annual report which the guardian must submit to the court. The attorney’s next step is to contact the guardian to arrange a visit. If a ward lives with the guardian, the guardian should be called ahead of time to schedule a visit. If a ward lives in a group home or nursing facility, the Court Visitor should contact the facility to ask about appropriate visiting times.

One of the first things the volunteer attorney should do on the visit is examine a ward’s living environment and his or her health and well-being. Anything that appears unusual, or raises a "red flag," must be noted. And although a Court Visitor’s time is limited, it’s recommended that they make an effort to get to know the ward they are visiting. Volunteers are encouraged to ask the ward about their job or other activities outside the home. This helps build rapport between a ward and the Court Visitor, and it also shows the attorney how the ward spends their days and whether the guardian takes an active role in maintaining the ward’s quality of life.

Often, a ward has developmental disabilities that can make a Court Visitor’s interview more challenging. This shouldn’t prevent an attorney from having a productive and insightful interview with them, but it does add to the challenge of a visit.

The Court Visitor’s interview with a guardian is equally as important as the interview with the ward. When interviewing a guardian, the attorney should first review contact information to ensure that the guardian’s phone numbers, email address and physical address are all current. The attorney should also remind the guardian that he or she is required to contact the court when the contact information or residence of the ward or guardian changes. Also, the attorney needs to ask the guardian whether the ward experienced any major changes in the last year, which can be either problems or improvements, because any change in medical condition must be included in the court visitor’s report.

In addition, the Court Visitor should ask the guardian questions to determine their physical and mental health, because caring for a ward can be a demanding and sometimes unrewarding job. There should be a determination made as to whether the guardian is still physically capable of taking care of the ward. Finally, the attorney should ask the guardian if the ward receives any benefits from Social Security or Medicaid. If not, the ward may be eligible for benefits if they are unable to work, and the guardian may be eligible for some assistance as well. At the conclusion of a visit, the volunteer should remind the guardian that they always need to file their annual report with the court.

Following the interview, the Court Visitor must complete and submit a report as soon as possible. It is important that this report be completed within two weeks of the visit, be a thorough analysis of the visit, and be written in a manner that is respectful of the ward and guardian. If a visit uncovers concern about the health or safety of the ward, or about the ability or suitability of the guardian to perform their duties, the attorney must inform the court as quickly as possible. At that point, the court or the investigators will determine the best way to follow-up on the attorney’s concerns. If the attorney suspects abuse, neglect, or exploitation, they have a legal duty to make a report to Adult Protective Services.

Once the Court Visitor has filed their report, brought any issues to the court’s attention, and answered any questions the court or the investigator’s have, their job is finished.


By getting involved in a Court Visitor program and taking an interest in the lives of incapacitated persons, Texas attorneys have begun to help make a difference in our society and are helping to prevent or uncover the abuse, neglect and exploitation of some of our most vulnerable citizens. More attorneys are needed to assist with this program, and TYLA encourages them to get involved.

Volunteers that have questions about procedures and expectations, or want practical pointers for conducting a Court Visit, are encouraged to contact local court staff and other guardianship attorneys for assistance. In addition, they should consult the pamphlet that provides additional information about Court Visits, entitled "The Court Visitor Program in Texas", and will soon be available for download here.

Thank you for your interest in this very important service, and best of luck with your visits!