Will and trust litigation in the news

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 […]
14 November 2014

Estate of Hemsley

Sherman Hemsley was a popular actor, known for playing George Jefferson in “All in the Family” and the “The Jeffersons.”  He was never married and had no children.  He died in El Paso in 2012 after a battle with lung cancer. About six weeks before he died, Hemsley executed a will leaving his estate to his close friend and business manager, Flora Bernal.  Hemsley’s half brother and cousin challenged the will, claiming that Hemlsey lacked testamentary capacity or was unduly influenced or did not sign the will.  After a bench trial in El Paso Probate Court No. 1, the judge […]
26 May 2014

A claim for tortious interference with inheritance is not necessarily a “probate proceeding”

In In re Hannah, the Houston Fourteenth Court of Appeals considered the Texas Estates Code definitions of a “probate proceeding” and a “matter related to a probate proceeding.”  The case involved a claim by the beneficiary of prior wills against the beneficiaries of a later will.  The claim was that the later beneficiaries tortiously interfered with the prior beneficiary’s expected inheritance. The tortious interference case was filed in Harris County.  The will depriving the earlier beneficiary of her interest was filed and admitted to probate in Aransas County.  The beneficiaries of that will were defendants in the Harris County suit.  They contended […]
4 March 2013

Every family has a story

I often get calls or emails from potential clients that start with: “You won’t believe what is happening in my family.”  Then comes a summary of betrayal and greed. My response is that I can believe it.  Every family has a story, and just about every family has parts to the story that are not necessarily uplifting or flattering.  Sometimes that involves disputes regarding money, including control over money.  Disputes with siblings, with parents, or step parents are not rare and of course I don’t get calls when things are going well. That provides some context to this story from the […]