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A Story about Life, Love, and Luck for Valentines Everywhere

Many pivotal events in life happen with a call and if we pause and listen, great things occur. Last year, “Rose” called. Rose’s husband passed away, suddenly. College sweethearts, immigrated to USA with lots of courage and little cash, obtained masters and Ph.D. degrees, and built an honest life with children. The problem— no will or survivorship rights. Rose was in middle of closing the sale of their family home in Texas when the title company informed her she needed to go to probate court. Not my specialty I told her, yet she trusted me so I (and Kathryn Klokker) refreshed on Texas Estates Code and the local court rules. The goal: secure for Rose the role of Independent Administrator without bond as soon as possible.

Why is this story worth your time? Lessons in humanity in life and law. Once the buyer of their family home realized Rose could not yet convey 100% of the community property estate, he (and his real estate agent) demanded a reduction in the agreed upon purchase price, sought cost reimbursement (which Rose gave), claimed she was in breach, and threatened to sue. The buyer got a lawyer (not in Texas) to write a letter that was barely comprehensible in legal foundation and equity principles. Didn’t the buyer and the lawyer understand she has no control over the probate court? Did they care that her husband had just passed on a few months ago? Where was their heart? Our real estate experts’ views? No Breach, the standard residential sale agreement contains conditions to closing. Buyer was merely trying to take advantage of the situation, angling for a sweeter deal. We counseled Rose to stay calm, small chance they will sue you, after all bullies are cowards… Rose informed the buyer she would keep her end of the original bargain and sell them the house when the legal process finished. We should always do the right thing.

A happy ending? Yes. Rose and children carried her husband/their father’s ashes to his hometown for a burial at sea ceremony, and returned home to Texas, safely and peacefully.

I learned something too. This area of law is really not easy, emotionally, for me. As I went through with Rose under oath, the facts of their 35 years together, one marriage, death, children etc. in open court, my heart ached, eyes watered, and I choked, feeling her pain. Paul Wright, the guardian ad litem, stepped up to help me finish (thanks Paul!). The probate court judge, Lincoln Monroe, with a reputation for following the law precisely, was fair and kind (double thanks Judge Monroe!).

We are honored to be trusted by this family to help navigate the journeys of life with sensible legal advice combined with compassion. Wishing you and your extended families lots of luck and love in life, forever and ever.

Lilly Teng

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