Replace broken

Do I need my neighbor’s permission to replace a crumbling party fence?

Q Do I need my neighbor’s permission to take down a common fence between our lots and build another fence? The fence between our houses fell and was raised, and their dogs drilled holes in it and entered our yard. The fence has been patched so many times that our neighbor now uses ladders and old folding chairs to fill in the holes. They told me they would pay for a new fence, but that was four months ago, and nothing had been done.

A. You should tell your neighbor that you will be removing and replacing the fence at your expense. Most neighbors would love someone else to pay for a new fence.

If they object, you can build a new fence right up against the existing fence. It is very common for two fences to be built side by side along the length of a property line.

Q I am trying to determine who can act as my agent under my durable and medical powers of attorney. I found a bank that has a trust department that will serve as an executor under my will, but they do not act as an agent under a power of attorney. I have no relative or friend who is suitable for these functions. Do you have any suggestions? So far I have not been able to locate a law firm, trust company or other entity that offers such a service.

A. Rather than having your estate controlled by a will upon your death, you should instead have an estate plan where a revocable trust is the decisive document.

You would need to hire an estate planning attorney to prepare the trust for you. In the trust agreement, you would name yourself to serve as the initial trustee, and the trust company you have already chosen to serve as executor would be named successor trustee if you are no longer able to serve. The trust company would perform the same functions as an agent under an enduring power of attorney. They would also control the disposition of trust property after your death, much like an executor.

If you switch to an estate plan based on a revocable trust, you will still have a “forever” will that gives everything still in your name upon your death to the revocable trust.

As for the medical power of attorney, it is not a document that you absolutely must have. The main purpose of the form is to allow you to appoint someone (and alternates) to make health care decisions for you if you cannot, thereby preventing multiple family members from trying to tell doctors to do things differently.

If you do not have a medical power of attorney and find yourself in the hospital without being able to make your own health care decisions, your doctor will make these decisions for you in conjunction with your spouse, adult child, of your parents or your next of kin living.

The information in this column is intended to provide a general understanding of the law, not legal advice. Ronald Lipman of the law firm of Houston Lipman & Associates is certified in Estate Planning and Inheritance Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Email questions to

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