As probate lawyers, we see many of the same issues frequently. One of the most frustrating and harmful is what we refer to as a “stolen” inheritance case.
It can happen in a variety of ways. Maybe an adult child is serving as the primary caregiver of an incapacitated parent and decides he’s entitled to a larger share of the estate than his siblings who aren’t helping as much; perhaps an executor with sticky fingers is carrying off jewelry that belonged to the deceased but really should be part of the estate; perhaps the act of defalcation is even harder to detect (like a case where an executor is over-charging an estate for fees or expenses related to the administration). There are hundreds of different ways someone can “steal” from an estate, but all of them end with the same result: one party who ends up with less than what they’re entitled to and another party who has been unjustly enriched.
Each year in Texas, thousands of claims are filed by beneficiaries asking courts to examine the acts of others related to their inheritance (or inheritance they should have received but didn’t). Although litigation is not always the answer, occasionally the most efficient manner of addressing the wrongful acts of others is to haul them into court and make them explain their behaviors. Frequently, however, people are reluctant to make claims as they believe the “No Contest” clause in the Will may prohibit their recovery or that the cost of legal counsel will soak up all their resources (thus making pursuing their claim pointless). Fortunately, those assumptions are usually incorrect.
- First, “No Contest” clauses are typically only applicable to the legal construction of the Will document, itself, and not the behavior of the executor (or the behavior of anyone in having the Will executed). Also, changes in Texas law protect people who would inherit and have good cause to make claims against the estate. Even if the “No Contest” clause could be applicable against you, the law may supervene what’s written in the Will and protect your right to speak up;
- Second, many lawyers (including the probate lawyers at Parvin Law Group, P.C. in Dallas) consider taking such cases on a contingency fee basis (meaning that they do not collect fees from clients up front but rather receive a fee when the case is over). Essentially, this means that some clients who could not otherwise pursue their claims have a method of hiring legal counsel without the up-front burden of paying a lawyer thousands of dollars.
The law is usually very clear when it comes to what portions claimants are entitled to from a deceased person’s estate. Thankfully, this means that most claims can be assessed quickly by lawyers who are experienced in these sorts of legal claims. If you believe you are entitled to a share of an estate but feel that someone has unlawfully prohibited the receipt of your inheritance, you should ask an experienced probate attorney to review the facts of your case and provide you an opinion on your rights. Not every claim results in recovery and, bluntly, some claims are pointless to make (even if a legitimate claim exists). Only an experienced lawyer can help you know if your claim is worth being pursued. If you believe you have such a claim in Texas and would like the opportunity to discuss it with a licensed attorney free of charge, call attorney Chris Parvin at (214) 974-8940. To learn more about probate litigation, you can visit our website here.
ATTORNEY CHRIS PARVIN is Board Certified in Estate Planning & Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Mr. Parvin is the Managing Partner of the Dallas, Texas law firm of Parvin Law Group, P.C. and serves as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Texas A&M University School of Law. Mr. Parvin can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Parvin Law Group, P.C. is a Concierge Law Firm in Dallas, Texas with attorneys practicing law in the fields of Estate Planning, Probate, Business Law and Family Law.