Current Affairs

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 […]
3 February 2014

The attorney-client privilege and estate disputes in Texas

Typically, communications between a client and their attorney are considered privileged.  With a few exceptions, an attorney can not be compelled to disclose the details of the communications.  The purpose of the privilege is to encourage clients to be candid with their attorneys, who are then better able to provide advice and effective representation. In many of the estate and life insurance beneficiary disputes I handle, primary issues involve the intent and mental capacity of the deceased.  Very often, the attorney who represented the deceased is in position to offer some testimony on those issues.  Texas law provides an exception to the […]
2 May 2013

Oil and gas royalties and estate disputes in Texas

The importance of oil and gas interests to Texans is nothing new.  But the shale boom has brought about a renaissance in exploration and production, and a great influx of wealth to many Texas families. This boom is highlighted in a recent Texas Tribune article: Large-scale extraction of oil and gas from shale is relatively new, which is why modern-day oilmen feel like explorers. Hy- draulic fracturing, or fracking, the process of breaking up underground rock with a high-pressure mix of water, sand and chemicals — took off in the late 1990s in the Barnett Shale near Fort Worth. In recent years, […]
3 March 2011

Mickey Rooney testifies regarding elder abuse

In my practice in Texas, I have seen what I consider egregious cases of elderly persons asked (forced?) to sign important legal and financial documents while under duress or when suffering from dementia.  The effect is that the person  signs away hundreds of thousands of dollars, either immediately or upon their death. Sometimes the wrongdoer is a caregiver, sometimes a girlfriend/boyfriend, and sometimes a close family member. Mickey Rooney gave some compelling and emotional testimony before the Senate Special Committee on Aging.  He was speaking in support of Senator Herb Kohl’s “Elder Abuse Victims Act.” According to Bloomberg,  Rooney testified […]