NEITHER BENEFICIARIES NOR PERSONAL REPRESENTATIVES OF AN ESTATE HAVE STANDING TO SUE A LAWYER FOR ALLEGED ERRORS THAT DO NOT AFFECT THE VALUE OF THE ESTATE

Donaldson v. Mincey
Dallas Court of Appeals, No. 05-13-00271-CV (December 17, 2014)
Justices Bridges (Opinion), O’Neill, and Brown
Shortly before he passed away, Michael Jordan asked his attorney, James Mincey, to prepare Trust Amendments that would substantially increase distributions to his children, Kate Donaldson and Steven Jordan. Mincey prepared the Amendments, but Michael died two months later without having executed them. The kids sued Mincey for malpractice. But the Dallas Court of Appeals affirmed summary judgment in favor of Mincey on the grounds that, as beneficiaries of the estate, Kate and Steven did not have an attorney-client relationship with Mincey and, therefore, could not sue him for malpractice. The Court “declined [the] invitation to disregard existing Texas law” by relaxing the privity requirement in cases involving beneficiaries. The Court also rejected Kate and Steven’s argument that, as personal representatives of their father’s estate, they could sue on behalf of the estate for the same alleged misconduct. The Court explained, “When the impact on a decedent’s estate is the apportionment and not total value, the estate has not suffered an actionable injury so as to allow personal representatives to recover for the apportionment contrary to the purported intent of the testator.” Such was the case here.

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