Hatton Law provides a variety of legal services related to acquiring, developing, and selling Texas real estate, including but not limited to the following:
Contract Drafting, Negotiation, & Review
At Hatton Law, we regularly review residential, farm and ranch, commercial and vacant land contracts. Experienced Realtors often refer their clients to us when representing buyers and sellers in significant real estate purchases and sales. We frequently draft addendums to the standard contracts and, when necessary, draft custom contracts to ensure our clients’ interests are properly protected.
Title Commitment Review
Title insurance, like other types of insurance, has exceptions to coverage. Because certain exceptions on a title insurance policy can effectively make the policy worthless, it is imperative that buyers engage an experienced real estate attorney to review their title commitment (the details of the title insurance policy being purchased) before the end of an option period and certainly before closing. Title commitments can also reveal clouds on title and issues that may impede the intended use of the property. We regularly review title commitments for buyers in order to identify issues like these and to remove inapplicable or unreasonable exceptions to title coverage. We work diligently to be sure our clients have the information they need before they close.
Sellers can also benefit from assistance with title commitment review. If a title company lists exceptions on a policy to which a buyer is objecting, we can often help by reviewing and addressing the exceptions and getting our clients to closing.
Closing Document Preparation and Review
In Texas, generally speaking, it is assumed that all the terms of a contract to buy or sell real estate are reflected in the closing documents. If a party has a term or condition in their contract that isn’t properly reflected in their closing documents, they may be out of luck. Often title companies prepare standard deeds without considering the terms of the contract or the intent of the parties. Minor language changes can make a world of difference in what a party to a transaction is getting or what guarantees to title they are making. We prepare general warranty deeds, special warranty deeds, deeds without warranty, and other types of deeds and transfer documents.
Assistance with Boundary, Heirship and Other Title Matters
Title and survey reviews sometimes reveal issues regarding boundary lines, overlapping property descriptions, other persons who might have a claim to the property, and unsettled heirship issues. We have helped numerous clients address and settle claims to title, boundary issues and establish in the public record the rights to property to which they are entitled.
Land Use and Development
When clients learn the land they plan to purchase or have already acquired may have issues that would impede their intended use of the property, they often seek our help. We assist our clients in addressing existing deed restrictions, mineral severances and leases, and easements. We can also work with you and your land planner to assist in obtaining necessary entitlements prior to land development. A thorough review of the applicable development regulations is important prior to the commencement of any development project.
Easement Drafting and Review
At Hatton Law, we draft easements on a regular basis, including access, waterline, maintenance, utility, and cell tower easements. We also regularly review easements and public records to help our clients determine what rights they do have to use existing easements, roadways and facilities. Several things should be considered when deciding to accept or grant an easement, including applicable guidelines and regulations and the planned purpose for the property.
Mineral Rights Issues
In Texas, mineral rights are separate from and superior to surface rights and can be severed. If the mineral rights have been severed, a mineral rights owner or lessee may have the right to use the surface of the property for exploration, development, and production of oil, gas or other minerals, regardless of who owns the surface. When purchasing land in Texas, it is important to know if the mineral rights have been severed and to know if there are any oil or gas wells on the property. Our firm can help owners and potential purchasers navigate these issues.
A properly prepared ALTA (American Land Title Association) survey will show the boundary of the property as well as easements, encumbrances, and other issues affecting the property. Along with a thorough title commitment review, it is imperative that a skilled attorney review a survey of rural property in Texas prior to the expiration of any option period and certainly before closing.
Restrictive Covenants/ CCRs
Hatton Law regularly drafts covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CCRs). We also form and prepare the governing documents for property owners associations taking into account the unique characteristics of the planned development. We can also assist with making sure proper legal procedures are followed when amending or terminating outdated or poorly drafted restrictions.
Agricultural and Wildlife Valuations
When developers acquire land with existing agricultural (Ag) valuations, there is an opportunity to subdivide land into lots as little as five to twenty-five acres managed by a grazing association or a wildlife management property association in order to ensure that wildlife management or cattle grazing remains the primary use of the property. We have assisted numerous developers in creating residential subdivisions in which the developed lots continue to qualify for an agricultural valuation year after year, resulting in a much lower property tax bills for the developer and for purchasers.
At Hatton Law, we regularly create various business entities for the purpose of acquiring, holding, developing and managing Texas real estate, including LLCs, limited partnerships, corporations, and nonprofit corporations. It is important that any entity have appropriate organizational documents that properly reflect the intentions of the investor or investors in the project. When form documents are used, there are numerous default provisions under the law that will apply, often not reflecting what was intended by the owners. Our firm drafts custom documents to ensure that entities are properly structured so that our clients have the control, liability protection, and tax treatment that best suits their needs. We also frequently review and redraft prior documents to help clients retool their business arrangements to better suit their needs and goals.
Property Tax Protests
Hatton Law represents owners in protests of market valuation and denials of agricultural valuations by appraisal districts. Our services are meant for owners facing a significant difference in their property tax bill who need in-depth analysis and services beyond those offered by discount providers.
Hatton Law represents plaintiffs and defendants in real estate matters in various courts throughout the State of Texas. We carefully review potential litigation matters and will advise clients accordingly if we believe filing suit is not their best option. We work with a small team of litigators and take on a limited number of matters at a time to ensure these cases get the attention they require.