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Examples of Representation

Cowles & Thompson has been involved in several significant estate, trust and probate litigation cases, and has achieved many favorable results for our clients.  Brief summaries of a few of these cases are listed below.

Abuse of trust

Cowles & Thompson represented the trust beneficiaries in a breach of trust action against the trustee of a multi million dollar trust.  The Firm’s clients sought to have trust funds restored to them that were allegedly misappropriated by the trustee over several decades of management.  The case was quite document intensive and complex.  The Firm was able to achieve a significant settlement for the clients.  The exact amount of the settlement is confidential, but the total settlement value was between five and ten million dollars.

Abuse of elderly / Will contests

Cowles & Thompson represented the only surviving child in a will contest in which the client’s 88 year old mother had executed a death bed will while demented and in the hospital, only six days before she died.  In the death bed will, the client’s mother left her estate to two younger men who owned an unsuccessful antique business and who had befriended her later in life.  The two men engaged in a protracted and complicated scheme to inherit the elderly lady’s estate, the crown jewel of which was her mansion on Swiss Avenue in East Dallas.

The case a quite shocking and disturbing instance of financial exploitation of the elderly, so much so that The Dallas Morning News published four-part series regarding the events in August of 2006.  The series was called “Mary Ellen’s Will: The Battle for 4949 Swiss.”  Reporter Lee Hancock’s series can be viewed on the Morning News web site at .


The Firm was able to defeat the death bed will, thus allowing the daughter to inherit her mother’s estate, including the Swiss Avenue mansion.  The antique dealers were indicted on criminal charges and are awaiting trial.

Will construction

Cowles & Thompson tried a will construction case in the Hill Country area of Texas in which the Firm’s client stood to gain a significant part of $4 million worth of real estate that was left in his father’s will.  The will contained a metes and bounds description that left certain real estate to another person.  It was initially assumed that the metes and bounds description conveyed all of the father’s real estate to the other person.  Only later was it discovered that the metes and bounds description did not include all of the father’s real estate, and that the balance of the property not included in the metes and bounds description should belong to the Firm’s client.  After going through several days of trial, a settlement was reached in which the Firm’s client received $2 million worth of property.

Heirship Dispute Representative Matter

The Firm represented two daughters whose father passed away without a will.  A third alleged child, a man claiming to be the father’s illegitimate son, filed an application in the probate court seeking to be declared an heir so that he could also receive a share of the father’s estate.  By statute, the Firm’s clients, as the two undisputed children of the deceased, would each receive 50% of their father’s estate.  If the illegitimate son was declared to also be an heir of the father, the daughters and the illegitimate son would each receive a third of the father’s estate.

The sole basis for the alleged son’s application was his assertion that his mother told him that the deceased was his father before she passed away, which as in 1989.  The alleged son  sought to compel the daughters to submit to genetic testing, which the court refused on more than one occasion, both in the proceeding in the probate court as well as in a later proceeding filed by the alleged son in family court..

Several interesting legal points were presented by the case, including whether anyone merely “claiming to be an heir” can seek a determination of heirship without presenting at least some evidence to support their heirship claim.  At present, there is not a reported opinion from a Texas appeals court that addresses that specific issue.

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