In a recent case before an appeals court in Texas, the plaintiff sued a local firefighters’ relief fund, hoping to receive compensation after her loved one passed away. The plaintiff originally asked a trial court to rule that she was entitled to survivor’s benefits after the death of her significant other, who had worked for years as a firefighter. Ultimately, the trial court refused to hear her claim, and she appealed. The court of appeals reversed this decision and gave the plaintiff another shot at having her case be heard.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, the plaintiff suffered the death of her significant other, who was entitled to a pension from a firefighters’ relief fund while he was alive. After his death, those funds went to his estate. In her lawsuit, the plaintiff argued that while she was not officially married to her significant other before he died, they were informally married, and she was entitled to some of the funds placed in the estate.
To succeed in her claim, the plaintiff had to prove both that she and her partner were indeed informally married and that this marriage entitled her to money from the relief fund. Because the plaintiff and her significant other had not created an in-depth plan that would automatically distribute his assets to her after his death, the plaintiff proceeded with the lawsuit in hopes of receiving the funds she thought she deserved.
The trial court decided it could not hear the plaintiff’s case because it did not have the authority to do so. In its decision, the trial court said that the fund itself needed to one the make call. Because the trial court took itself out of the decision entirely, it also denied the plaintiff’s claims for compensation.
On appeal, the plaintiff asked for a reconsideration of the denial. She argued that the trial court did actually have authority to hear the case and that she needed it to issue a decision in order for her to see her lawsuit through. Ultimately, the higher court agreed with the defendant and remanded the plaintiff’s case to the lower court, ordering it to issue a decision either for or against the plaintiff.
In the end, the plaintiff’s case represents the possible consequences of failing to complete a proper estate plan. Had the plaintiff and her partner put all of their plans in writing with an estate planning attorney, the plaintiff might have had a much easier time getting the funds she needed. Without a strategy in place, it can be an uphill battle to fight for the assets your loved one has left behind.
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At McCulloch & Miller, we specialize in estate planning for clients who want to make sure they get the best, most detail-oriented services possible. We take pride in making the estate planning process as easy as possible for the people we work with so that they can have the freedom and capacity to make thoughtful decisions that protect the people they love. For a consultation with one of our attorneys, give us a call today at (713) 333-8900.