Blog

11 May 2016

Mind your QDRO

I routinely handle life insurance beneficiary disputes. As I mentioned in a previous post, the first issue I analyze is whether the life insurance policy is governed by state law or by a federal law known as ERISA. Many ERISA policy disputes involve claims by former spouses to life insurance benefits.  Many states bar former spouses from receiving life insurance benefits if the designation was  made prior to the divorce. But such state laws are generally superseded by ERISA.  Often there is a claim that the former spouse waived their beneficiary status in the divorce decree.  A state divorce decree judgment […]
27 February 2016

In re Estate of Parrimore: Court of appeals upholds factual findings regarding capacity and undue influence

Texas appellate courts are generally reluctant to overturn trial court factual findings regarding testamentary capacity and undue influence. In re Estate of Parrimore, from the Houston 14th Court of Appeals, is an example. Parrimore involved a trial to the judge (bench trial) of a will contest.  The contest involved the usual issues regarding testamentary capacity and undue influence. The evidence at trial was that the testator signed the will only 11 days after being released from the hospital for treatment after a stroke. However, there was also evidence that the testator had begun work on his will long before the […]
10 December 2015

Determining if a life insurance policy is governed by ERISA

One of the first questions I ask a potential client with a life insurance dispute is whether or not the insured obtained the policy through their employer.  This helps me determine whether state or federal law applies to the dispute. This is crucial because the particular federal law that governs employee benefits, ERISA, preempts most state law rights and remedies. It also generally determines the forum where the dispute will be heard and if a jury will be involved in deciding the case. ERISA typically applies when an employee obtains life insurance through an employer, even when the employer may […]
19 November 2015

When offering a will can lead to criminal charges

The Mary Ellen Bendtsen estate has been the subject of much media coverage in the Dallas area.  The short version of events is that she owned a historic mansion on Swiss Avenue in Dallas. Several years before her 2005 death, she was befriended by two much young antique dealers, including Mark McCay. Eight days before she died, she executed a will in a hospital leaving the house to McCay and the other dealer. The entire saga is the subject a series of stories in the Dallas Morning News and became something of a rallying point against financial abuse of the elderly […]
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