Trust & Estate Litigation

Our attorneys have had remarkable success representing clients—from individual will beneficiaries to Fortune 500 companies—in complex and high-profile disputes involving will contests, trusts, estates, and guardianships.

The settling of a decedent’s financial affairs—a process often called “probating the estate”—takes place in county courts with specialized jurisdiction. Few areas of the law generate more bitter disputes than those involving a deceased or incapacitated relative—or involving a trustee’s breach of fiduciary duty to the beneficiaries of a trust. To advance a client’s interests, the attorneys involved must be familiar with the nuances of the law governing wills, estates, trusts, and guardianships as well as the local probate court’s procedures. Our attorneys have great depth of experience in the estate, trust, and guardianship arenas and have appeared in probate courts and courts of appeals throughout Texas, amassing a record of success for our clients.

 

Representative cases

J.P.V. v. RBC LLC and I.B. LLC,

No.13-01876, FINRA Dispute Resolution Arbitration (2015):

JMEH, with Joe Marrs as lead counsel, represented trust beneficiaries in claims against broker-dealers for negligence, gross negligence, Texas Securities Act violations and aiding and abetting breach of fiduciary duty. The claims against one respondent resolved confidentially. The claims against the other respondent proceeded to arbitration. On April 27, the Panel returned an award of $1,209,632 in favor of JMEH’s clients, including $483,853 in attorneys’ fees. The award was vacated, and is now on appeal.


J.P.V., et al. v. R.W.D.,

No. C-1-PB-13-001133; in the Probate Court No. 1 of Travis County, Texas (2015):

The firm, with Joe Marrs as lead counsel, represented trust beneficiaries against their former trustee for breach of fiduciary duty.


In re Estate of L.N.B., Deceased,

No. 88PR283, in the Combined Court, Mesa County, Colorado (2014):

Joe Marrs, with the help of local counsel, represented contingent beneficiaries in a petition for appointment of a neutral trustee of a testamentary family trust. The petition was a key element of a greater effort to resolve claims to certain commercial property held by the testamentary trust in California. The claims resolved favorably at mediation for JMEH’s clients.


Estate of S.M.P., Deceased,

No. C-1-PB-13-001037, in the Probate Court No. 1 of Travis County, Texas (2014):

JMEH represented a fortune 500 company in claims to recover assets and protect its interests in a significant estate dispute. The case resolved on confidential terms.


In re P.F.T.,

No. D-1-GN-13-002061, in the 126th District Court of Travis County, Texas (2013):

Joe Marrs represented trust beneficiaries first in a successful petition to appoint themselves co-trustees, and then against an intervening former trustee who sought to overturn their appointment as successor co-trustees of the trust on various grounds. Following a final judgment, then a second evidentiary hearing on the former trustee’s motion for new trial, the court upheld the judgment in favor of JMEH’s clients.


Estate of C.W.B., Deceased,

No. 06929, in the County Court of Llano County, Texas (2013):

Joe Marrs represented surviving children as will contestants against a caregiver/will beneficiary, alleging breach of fiduciary duty and lack of testamentary capacity. The case resolved favorably for JMEH’s clients, who received a share of the decedent’s Llano County ranch.


Estate of Emma Fuhst West, Deceased;

No. C-1-PB-12-001276, in Probate Court Number One of Travis County, Texas (2013):

Joe Marrs, a JMEH partner, was appointed by the Travis County Probate Court as attorney ad litem representing 70+ heirs in a complex intestate estate.


In Re P.F.T.,

in the 126th District Court of Travis County, Texas (2013):

The firm represented beneficiaries of a trust in claims against a trustee for day-trading and self-dealing, resulting in losses to the trust and damages exceeding $1.4 million. As a result of pre-suit negotiations, the trustee resigned and JMEH’s clients obtained a final judgment appointing themselves co-trustees in the Travis County District Court. The former trustee has appealed the judgment, and the claims for damages against the former trustee remain pending in the Travis County Probate Court.


B.S, C.S., & T.S. v. S.W. & J.K.,

In the 23rd Judicial District Court of Wharton County, Texas (2013):

JMEH represented a partner and trust beneficiary in claims for breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, and equitable dissolution of a rice farming partnership and termination of a testamentary trust. Closing seven years of litigation, including one failed settlement, the firm negotiated an agreed final judgment that dissolved the partnership, terminated the trust, and divided all assets on terms favorable to its client.


In Re Guardianship of M.A.M., Jr., an Incapacitated Person,

No. C-1-PB-12-001162, in the Probate Court No. 1 of Travis County, Texas (2012):

JMEH represented the family of a proposed ward in a guardianship bench trial.


In Re G.A.L. Living Trust,

No. D-1-GN-1-001084, In the 98th District Court, Travis County, Texas; No. C-1-PB-10-001106, In Probate CourtNo. 1 of Travis County, Texas; AAA Case No. 70 101 Y 00553 10 (2012):

Joe Marrs represented the prevailing beneficiary in a dispute concerning the management of an inter vivos revocable trust. Following a three-day arbitration and eight weeks’ deliberation, the three-member panel found that the trustee breached her fiduciary duty, breached the trust, and must disgorge wrongful enrichment and pay damages of over $200,000 to the trust and to Mr. Marrs’s client, including $128,000 in attorneys’ fees.


Tomlinson v. Estate of Theis,

2008 WL 160202 (Tex. App.—Austin Jan. 18, 2008, no pet.):

Chris Johns authored the winning brief in a will challenge involving a multi-million-dollar estate.


Estate of F. E. M.,

No. C-1-PB-10-000626, In Probate Court No. 1 of Travis County, Texas:

Joe Marrs represented children defending their father’s will and real estate against a will contest and partnership dispute. The contestant—a friend and business partner of the decedent—offered medical testimony attempting to show the decedent lacked testamentary capacity or was unduly influenced to sign his last will. The contestant also made claims to the decedent’s real estate based upon a written partnership agreement. Shortly before trial, the court granted Mr. Marrs’s plenary motion for summary judgment, dismissing all the contestant’s claims.


State Farm Life Insurance Co. v. M.D.,

No. 09-CA-244 LY, In the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas; Estate of K., Deceased, Cause No. NO. C-1-PB-09-089882, In Probate Court No. 1 of Travis County, Texas:

Joe Marrs represented a surviving wife, who was not a named beneficiary of her deceased husband’s will. Prosecuting claims in probate court and in a parallel federal interpleader action, the client ultimately obtained a share of a life insurance policy, estate assets in kind, and a spousal allowance. The total net recovery for the client in the settlement was $125,000 cash plus estate assets in kind.


C.J.K. v. R.F.,

No. D-1-GN-10-002656, In the 201st District Court, Travis County, Texas:

In a wrongful-death case, Joe Marrs obtained a policy-limits recovery for the five children of an accident victim.


In Re Estate of B.,

Cause No. 360,899, In Probate Court No. 1 of Harris County, Texas:

Representing a proponent at jury trial of a will contest involving an estate of significant assets. The contestant, the decedent’s second wife, alleged that the will was revoked. Joe Marrs obtained a verdict upholding the will and full award of attorney’s fees to the client.