December 2015 Headnotes: Probate, Trusts & Estates Law

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Dallas Bar Association


Focus Probate, Trusts & Estates Law

December 2015 Volume 40 Number 12

Payne Mitchell Law Group Supports Access to Justice with $25,000 Pledge Andy Payne and Jim Mitchell, of Payne Mitchell Law Group, have donated $25,000 to the 2016 Equal Access to Justice Campaign benefitting the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program. Payne Mitchell Law Group, a personal injury law firm that specializes in products liability, commercial vehicles, medical malpractice, aviation, negligence, whistleblower, and business torts, has donated more than $175,000 to DVAP in the last nine years. Mr. Payne and Mr. Mitchell have helped many poor people through their donations to the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program. With their financial support, the poor have received legal advice, guidance, and representation from volunteer attorneys—all of which are very hard to come by for the poor, not only in Dallas County but throughout the State of Texas and every state in the nation. In the United States, people accused of a crime are guaranteed the right to an attorney even if they cannot afford to pay for one. The United States Supreme Court’s unanimous, 1963 ruling in Gideon v. Wainwright changed our criminal justice system, providing defendants their opportunity to be heard, greater fairness in criminal courts, and arguably more of a chance for our justice system to be just. Today, it is difficult for anyone in our society to imagine anyone fighting criminal charges alone. The results, we presume, would be devastating—the loss of freedom without a chance to tell your side of the story and protect a person’s individual rights. But, in civil cases, people do just that—they go it alone. There is no equivalent Gideon v. Wainwright for those needing relief from the civil courts. Maybe it is because civil litigants don’t run the risk of prison that we are not collectively outraged or even dismayed. While very sad, it doesn’t seem shocking that a poor person might have to fight his mortgage company alone, or a mother fight for custody of her child alone, or a terrified victim of domestic violence have to face her abuser alone. And while loss of one’s freedom may not

Andy Payne and Jim Mitchell

be on the horizon, the results can be devastating and create a domino effect that tears families and our community apart. But, then we have hope in the form of donors, volunteers, and groups who support the cause of legal aid to the poor. We have Andy Payne and Jim Mitchell who believe in civil justice despite one’s economic circumstances. We have the many other Equal Access to Justice donors, both small and large, who invest in the concept of justice and the positive impact it has on the community. We have attorney, paralegal, law student, judicial, and courthouse volunteers who interview the clients, work the cases, and represent the individual clients. We have intake clinics, pro bono CLE programs, and mentors. We have the Dallas Bar Association and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, and their joint pro bono program, the Dallas Volunteer

Attorney Program. We have awards and accolades, and we keep moving forward, trying to do more, help more, and provide a fairer Dallas civil justice system. We have something to be proud of because the Dallas legal community is standing $600,000+ up with more volunteers and more donors all the time who $550,000 are working to provide more services to more clients every $500,000 day. Much has been done to provide access to justice, and $450,000 there is much more to do. In Dallas, thousands get legal help every year because of pro $400,000 bono service, but more people need help and more volunteers $350,000 are needed. In Dallas County, a county with over 16,000 lawyers, we still have people right $300,000 now who are preparing to go to court tomorrow alone. $250,000 The Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program is a joint pro $200,000 bono program of the Dallas Bar Association and Legal Aid of $150,000 NorthWest Texas. The Dallas Bar Association and Legal Aid $100,000 of NorthWest Texas co-sponsor the Equal Access to Justice $50,0000 Campaign, which benefits the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program. For more information on the Campaign or the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, please contact Alicia Hernandez at (214) 220  HN 7499 or ahernandez@​

To Give:

by Alicia Hernandez

Alicia Hernandez is the director of the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program and the DBA director of community services. She can be reached at

THANK YOU TO OUR MAJOR DONORS | Equal Access to Justice Campaign Kicks Off The Dallas Bar Association and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas kicked off their annual Equal Access to Justice Campaign benefitting the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program. A number of Dallas firms, corporations, and friends have committed major support. Please join us in recognizing and thanking the following for their generous gifts to the Campaign*:

PRESIDENT’S COUNCIL ($30,000) Connatser Family Law Crain Lewis Brogdon, LLP

PLATINUM ($10,000) Andrews Kurth LLP Baker Botts LLP Exxon Mobil Corporation Fish & Richardson W. Gary Fowler Haynes and Boone, LLP Jackson Walker L.L.P. KASTL LAW, PC KoonsFuller, PC Locke Lord Mike McKool, Jr. Texas LawBook The Hartnett Law Firm Thompson & Knight Foundation Vinson & Elkins LLP

CHAIRMAN’S COUNCIL ($25,000) Anonymous Deborah Hankinson Payne Mitchell Law Group DIAMOND ($15,000) Jerry C. Alexander AT&T Services, Inc. *Donors as of press time.

GOLD ($5,100+) Anderson Tobin PLLC Barnes & Thornburg LLP Carrington, Coleman, Sloman & Blumenthal, L.L.P. Dallas Association of Young Bankruptcy Lawyers Dallas Association of Young Lawyers Energy Future Holdings Legal Department Laura Benitez Geisler Greenberg Traurig, LLP McKool Smith Lewis Sifford Texas Lawyer The Mike and Barbara Lynn Philanthropic Fund Jeff Tillotson Robert L. Tobey Victor & DeNette Vital Joel & Terilyn Winful

Law firms, corporations, and individuals wishing to make a pledge will be prominently recognized beginning at the $5,000 level each month through January. To donate, contact Alicia Hernandez, For more information about the Campaign see


10 Preserving the Family Vacation Home—and Family Harmony 15 Transfer On Death Deeds 17 Trusts: Spotting the Issues in Transactions and Litigation 19 You Have Been Named as Executor in a Will, Now What?


RENEWAL MUST BE RECEIVED BY DECEMBER 31, 2015! Renew your 2016 DBA Dues online TODAY! Go to the DBA website and under the Membership tab, click on Renew Membership. Or if you prefer to mail in your payment, log in and select the 2016 Dues Statement option to print and mail in your 2016 DBA DUES STATEMENT with payment. Your 2016 DBA DUES must be paid by December 31, 2015 in order to continue receiving ALL your member benefits. Need help with your renewal? Contact Kim Watson, or (214) 220-741 Thank you for your support of the Dallas Bar Association!