“(You Drive Me) Crazy” by Britney Spears

As you no doubt have realized, it appears that our friend Brit has some pretty serious mental health issues. What you probably haven’t realized is what that has to do with a Probate Blog. Well, that’s where I come in. Actually, the situation Britney currently finds herself in directly relates to probate. Or at least it would if she resided in Harris County. This is because in Harris County, the Probate Courts are in charge of the so-called “Mental Health …

Houston Good Ol’ Boy Probate Network

You may have seen the recent stories about the Probate Courts in Harris County. To describe them as unflattering would be an understatement. The Houston Chronicle is all abuzz over Probate abuse, exorbitant fees, and a good-ole boy network in the Probate system. Now, to be honest, some of the questions were legitimate. When a non-lawyer, non-cpa is allowed to charge 1.38 million dollars and then ask off the case while it sits unresolved, you have to ask some serious …

Sweat Equity and Simple Estate Planning

I recently had the opportunity to speak with a group of new Houston Habitat for Humanity homeowners as part of their “sweat equity” program. If you live under a rock like I apparently do, you too might not have known that Habitat homeowners are required to invest hundreds of hours of their own time and labor into building their homes and their lives. The Houston Bar Association and the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program partnered to provide these homeowners with free …

Practicing Law is Not a Numbers Game

When lawyers start suing other lawyers over whether or not other lawyers are any good, you have to think that the legal profession might be taking itself just a bit too seriously. On June 5th, Avvo, Inc. launched a website (www.avvo.com) which the company touts is “designed to give consumers information and guidance to choose the right attorney.” It took a Seattle law firm nine days to sue the young company. Twenty-five page Class Action Petitions don’t exactly draft themselves …

Nash Bridges Gap Between Divorce and Intestacy

The Texas Supreme Court has added another opinion in the debate of what happens when you forget to change your will after a divorce. Needless to say the best advice is to immediately pay a visit to your friendly neighborhood probate attorney and have him draw you up a new will, but I digress. In re Estate of Nash involved a fight between the living heirs of Marvin Nash, and Marvin Nash’s ex-stepdaughter. Marvin Nash executed a will while he …

Banking on Good Advice

Some of the most basic assets in an Estate can pass outside of the formal probate process. Survivorship rights on a typical bank account, for example, can be added with some boilerplate explanation and the check of a box. But what if you only intended to add a name to the account for convenience? Check the box, and you’ve just made a significant estate planning decision, relying on the advice of an account manager, or worse, at your local bank. …

“No” Your Rights

I recently found myself discussing a local hospital’s approach to DNR status with a fellow Houston lawyer. He informed me that this hospital (which will go unnamed but let’s just say it’s one of the big three) does not subscribe to the Texas Health and Safety Code, and instead answers only to their in-house ethics committee and the edicts this board releases. One such edict was the subject of our discussion and involved the fact that said hospital automatically institutes …

Good “Will” Hunting

Following the death of Anna Nicole Smith, rumors have flown about whether she had a Will and, if so, what it said. Reports have been released recently that say that Smith drafted a Will that left her entire estate to her son, Daniel, who died approximately 6 months before Smith. Although the specific contents of the Will have not been released at this time, the Will purportedly contains a provision that would cut out any additional children if she bore …

Who’s Your Daddy?

The biggest news item of recent days has been the death of Anna Nicole Smith. As many remember, she was engaged in a messy probate battle of the Will of her late husband J. Howard Marshall. That battled raged in the Harris County probate court for nearly 6 months, and it definitely left its mark on the Houston probate process. Now, in the wake of Smith’s death, questions have arisen about the contents of her Will, the circumstances surround her …