Aretha Franklin’s Family Facing Contested Will Battle

Contested Will

When iconic entertainer Aretha Franklin died last August no one knew there would be a contested will because the “Queen of Soul” reportedly did not have a valid will or another plan to cover her estimated $80 million estate.

That changed dramatically last month when her personal lawyer of more than 40 years revealed that Franklin had written three recently discovered wills by hand in 2010 and 2014 before falling victim to her long battle with pancreatic cancer. Franklin’s attorney correctly filed the documents with a Michigan probate court in charge of administering her estate. Now, a judge will determine which, if any, of the late singer’s handwritten wills is valid.

Franklin isn’t the first high-profile person to die without leaving clear directions on how their estate should be handled. Fellow entertainers Prince, Kurt Cobain, and Jimi Hendrix similarly passed away without a will or estate plan, which resulted in protracted court proceedings. Now, Franklin’s sons and other relatives are readying themselves for what may well be a long and expensive battle in court.

What Happens When There Is No Will?

Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon situation. Some studies suggest that more than half of U.S. parents do not have a legal will. Board Certified Civil Trial Lawyer Brad Jackson is regularly called on by relatives of people from all walks of life who have died without a will, including lawyers, doctors, business executives, family business owners.

Obviously, having a valid will and/or an established estate plan will help surviving relatives avoid many of the legal issues that can emerge following a loved one’s death. But when that doesn’t happen, you will need an experienced lawyer to help you navigate the process.

When there is no will, a person’s estate is subject to administration through what can be complicated and expensive intestacy procedures under a court-appointed administrator.

Handwritten, Informally Prepared or Professionally Prepared Wills

Some people mistakenly believe that handwritten wills like those left behind by Franklin are all that’s needed to wrap up a person’s estate. That may be true in some instances, but such documents often lead to disputes about their validity and meaning like what is now happening with Franklin’s contested will.

Even official looking wills may not be enforceable because there are certain formalities and specific requirements for the creation of an enforceable will. Laws vary from state to state. Internet forms that are not specific to Texas or wills that are not prepared or executed in compliance with Texas law may be ineffective and rejected by a court.

A professionally prepared will and estate plan that is completed well in advance is the safest and likely least complicated and cost-effective way to plan for the handling of your estate. While a professionally prepared will has upfront costs, it will likely provide for significant cost savings and a more certain outcome in the long term.

No will, including a professionally prepared will, is bulletproof. Wills made after a person has lost testamentary capacity – the ability to understand and appreciate the nature and process of deciding how their property will be dealt with – or wills made under the undue influence of another person may be subject to a will contest and ultimately thrown out by a court.

Brad Jackson Handles Contested Will, Probate and Trust Cases

At the Law Offices of Brad Jackson, our attorneys have represented both plaintiffs and defendants in probate and trust litigation and contested will situations for decades. We regularly appear in probate courts throughout Dallas, Fort Worth and North Texas. Our team also maintains close relationships with financial professionals and estate law experts who help us protect clients’ rights.

Attorney Brad Jackson is a veteran of local courts who has been Board Certified in Civil Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization for more than a decade. Clients call on Brad based on his years of experience in high stakes will contests and related legal matters.

The probate process can be a minefield. Knowing which documents will help prove your case, meeting court deadlines, and presenting evidence in court is something that few people are capable of handling without the guidance of a seasoned attorney who has been there before. If you’re facing a will contest or probate and trust litigation, contact the Law Offices of Brad Jackson for more information about how we can help.


Brad Jackson Helps Client Defeat $100K Fraudulent Transfer Claim

fraudulent transfer

Brad Jackson recently secured a complete victory in a contentious business dispute heard in Dallas district court after one of our clients was wrongly accused of being a party to an alleged fraudulent transfer of $100,000.

The case was tried over several days last year before Judge Dale Tillery of the 134th District Court in Dallas. In an interesting twist, one of the most important documents in the case was originally written in Hebrew and had to be translated into English. During the trial, we also relied on a translator since the people who sued our client spoke Vietnamese.

Beauty Salon Bought with Family Loan

The controversy began in 2013, when our client, a local businessman, loaned his nephew $190,000 at 6 percent interest to buy a beauty salon. Under the terms of the agreement, which was written in Hebrew, our client also was first in line to be repaid if the salon was sold before the loan was paid off.

When the nephew eventually sold the salon, he repaid our client the remaining $100,000 that was owed on the loan. Our client then deposited that money in his bank account to repay a separate loan he had taken out to help his nephew buy the salon.

In 2016, our client’s nephew was sued by two business associates in a dispute over money tied to the already sold salon. A year later, the same two business associates sued our client based on claims they were entitled to the $100,000 that he was repaid more than a year earlier, as well as additional money damages.

Defending Fraudulent Transfer Claim

Relying on his years of legal experience and knowledge of the Texas Business and Commerce Code and the Texas Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act, Brad argued that for a transfer to be fraudulent, it must be made “without receiving a reasonably equivalent value and the debtor (in this case, our client’s nephew) was insolvent at that time or the debtor became insolvent as a result of the transfer or obligation.”

Brad persuaded the Court that our client should not be found in violation of the Fraudulent Transfer Act since extinguishing the obligation to repay the loan was something of value and there was no evidence that the nephew was insolvent when the loan was repaid; that our client believed his nephew was insolvent; or that repaying the loan made the nephew insolvent.

Court Rules in Our Client’s Favor

Earlier this week, we received a final judgment and permanent injunction where the Court dismissed all the claims against our client. We are thankful for the well-reasoned ruling.

This case is a perfect example of how a person or company can become involved in a business dispute through no fault of their own. Our client thought he was simply helping his nephew by loaning him $100,000 only to find out a year later that he was being sued himself for significantly more than the original loan amount. Thankfully, we’ve seen these types of strongarm tactics before and we knew the law was on our client’s side.

Law Offices of Brad Jackson Handling High Net Worth Divorces


Although our firm is best known for helping clients in business disputes, Brad Jackson also provides extensive experience representing both husbands and wives in high-stakes divorces. Over the years, Brad has effectively represented entrepreneurs, business executives, doctors, lawyers, and a variety of other individuals in significant divorce matters.

Now, the firm is expanding our family law work with the launch of a new practice area devoted to High Net Worth Divorces, including cases involving division of assets, child support, child custody, and alimony.

Business Skills Help Divorce Clients

Over the years, Brad noticed an all-too-familiar dynamic where the same chummy group of divorce lawyers often go up against each other in court. Rather than becoming a member of this unofficial “divorce lawyers club,” Brad decided the best way he could help his divorce clients was to use the same skills he’s built over the years representing people and companies in business cases.

As a result, Brad discovered that his business background often caused him and his clients to be better prepared than the other side during all stages of a divorce. Instead of playing by the unwritten rules, Brad uses everything in his toolbox to best represent his divorce clients.

Sometimes that means bringing in appraisers and other financial professionals to properly address the value of marital assets. Sometimes it means hiring a forensic account to determine whether a spouse has been dishonest by hiding stocks, bonds or even cash. Brad leaves no stone unturned to make sure his clients’ rights are protected.

The firm’s prior work in divorce litigation includes cases involving such assets as:

  • Family businesses
  • Family trusts
  • Investment properties
  • Inherited assets
  • Private homes
  • Vacation properties
  • 401(k) and other retirement accounts
  • Stocks and stock options
  • Royalty payments

If you or someone you know is facing a high net worth divorce, please call our offices at 214-526-7800 or contact our team online for more information on how we might be able to help.

Law Offices of Brad Jackson Helps Houston Business Complete Sale


The Law Offices of Brad Jackson recently represented Houston-based business Global Waste Services LLC in the company’s successful sale to Houston-based WCA Waste Corporation as part of a deal announced earlier this week.

Brad Jackson led the firm’s work on behalf of Global Waste Services, a provider of trash and recycling services for industrial, commercial and residential customers in and around Houston.

Under the terms of the deal reported in the Houston Business Journal, WCA acquired Global Waste Service’s waste hauling and recycling business, along with its recycling plant and the company’s material recovery facility, both of which are located in the Houston area.

Almost all of Global Waste Services’ 95 employees will join WCA’s existing 1,500 employees, who serve more than 500,000 customers in 11 states.

Experienced in Business Sales, Purchases

The deal was completed on August 31, following Mr. Jackson’s negotiations on behalf of Global Waste Services with in-house and outside counsel for WCA. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Since being taken private in 2012, WCA has acquired several waste services firms, including Freedom Waste Services LLC and Jones Sanitation LLC in Kentucky and the Missouri-based companies EZ Disposal and Flynn’s Raytown Disposal.

Although the Law Offices of Brad Jackson is best known for our work in business litigation and other civil claims, this deal is an example of Mr. Jackson’s expertise in company sales and purchases. Over the years, he has been called on by a variety of business owners to help them sell and purchase all types of companies and other business assets.

If you are looking to sell or buy a company, call our team at 214-526-7800 or contact us via email for more information about how we may be able to help.


Brad Jackson Earns Spot on 2018 Texas Super Lawyers List

attorney, Texas Super Lawyers, commercial litigation, Brad Jackson

Experienced attorney Brad Jackson of the Law Offices of Brad Jackson in Dallas has earned his 15th consecutive selection among the state’s best on the exclusive Texas Super Lawyers list.

Mr. Jackson, who is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, is recognized in the 2018 listing for his accomplishments in business litigation. His selection is based on nominations from other attorneys and an extensive editorial review conducted by Super Lawyers, a division of Thomson Reuters.

Recent Legal Successes

Last month, Mr. Jackson and fellow firm attorney Cheryl L. Mann successfully represented a group of business owners in a partnership dispute where their company’s former president sought more than $1 million.

In a 15-page opinion, the 5th District Court of Appeals in Dallas affirmed an earlier summary judgment that Mr. Jackson won for the same clients, clearing them of allegations of breach of fiduciary duty, conspiracy, and misappropriation and conversion of corporate funds.

Earlier this year, Mr. Jackson and Ms. Mann successfully defended a group of seller and business broker clients in a lawsuit over the sale of an insurance agency. The plaintiffs sought more than $3 million but decided to dismiss their claims after only three days of trial. They also agreed to pay $200,000 to one of the firm’s clients.

Attorney Provides Civil Litigation Expertise

These are just two examples of the many types of cases Mr. Jackson handles for companies and individuals from all walks of life. He represents both plaintiffs and defendants in state and federal courts throughout Texas and across the U.S.

In addition to serving as lead counsel in the firm’s cases, Mr. Jackson also is regularly called on by other lawyers and out-of-state clients for his advice and legal expertise. He maintains strong working relationships with lawyers and judges in North Texas and beyond.

Based in Dallas, The Law Offices of Brad Jackson provides decades of experience representing clients in Texas and across the nation. Brad Jackson is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. The firm handles practically every type of business dispute, as well as cases involving high-stakes divorce litigation, serious personal injury and wrongful death.

14 Dallas Gas Stations to Pay for Hurricane Harvey Price Gouging

price gouging

Last year’s catastrophic Hurricane Harvey dumped more than 50 inches of rain on the Houston area and claimed more than 80 lives. Many people stepped up to help their neighbors in the aftermath, but there were others who turned the community’s shared distress into a moneymaking enterprise through price gouging.

Immediately following the worst of the storm, both the Texas governor and attorney general warned businesses against price gouging. However, there were numerous reports of hurricane victims being charged ridiculous amounts for everything from bottled water to hotel rooms to gasoline.

The fears over supply shortages hit hard in Dallas, where hundreds of gas stations ran out of fuel and thousands of customers waited in line for hours.

Texas AG Files Price Gouging Claims

The AG’s office responded to reports of price gouging by asking those who believed they had been overcharged to provide copies of their receipts. In the months that followed, the AG filed a series of lawsuits and issued more than 125 notices of violations.

Now, several of those businesses have agreed to a legal settlement that includes more than $160,000 in refunds for customers. According to published reports, 48 Texas gas stations signed off on the agreement, including 14 in Dallas. Overall, 42 of the stations are in North Texas.

The AG says all the stations in the settlement charged gas prices of at least $3.99 per gallon after Harvey. Some stations reportedly charged as much as $8.99 per gallon. Gas prices in Texas averaged roughly $2.20 per gallon at the time.

The two biggest payouts reportedly are coming from the Old Town Store in Garland, which agreed to refund $14,870, and Bob’s Exxon in Dallas, which will pay $12,000. In an odd twist, the Old Town Store recently was in the news for selling a $1 million winning scratch-off lottery ticket. Based on the Texas Lottery’s bonus program, that means the owners of Old Town are in line for a $10,000 bonus, which should help offset their settlement payment.

Protecting Clients’ Money

Although the legal actions above were filed by the state, the facts are not that different from what I regularly see in cases involving fiduciary litigation and business disputes.

The gas stations that agreed to the price gouging settlement saw an opportunity to grab some extra cash and thought they could get away with it. Fortunately, the state was there to help.

At the Law Offices of Brad Jackson, we have spent decades helping individuals and companies who similarly have been ripped off through no fault of their own. The unfortunate truth is that there are people in all walks of life who are looking for the chance to line their pockets even if it means violating the law. That’s why we are here to protect clients’ interests and make sure that responsible parties are held accountable under the law.

Multimillion-Dollar Jury Verdict Follows Missed Deadline in Personal Injury Case

A high-profile Dallas lawyer has filed for bankruptcy protection while facing a multimillion-dollar lawsuit over an important missed deadline in a personal injury case.

Attorney Levi McCathern II is perhaps best known for representing the Dallas Cowboys and team owner Jerry Jones. He also earned some unflattering notoriety in 2011 after being cited and fined for illegally killing a giant alligator.

McCathern recently was the subject of a feature story in The Dallas Morning News about his representation of Lubbock-based West Star Transportation. The company’s insurer hired McCathern in 2009 to defend a personal injury lawsuit filed by a driver who suffered a serious brain injury after falling off a truck.

The driver’s attorney reportedly presented McCathern and his clients with $250,000 personal injury settlement offer that included a specific deadline. McCathern failed to respond in writing before the deadline and instead called to say that his client would agree to the proposed settlement. He then followed up to accept the offer in writing less than an hour after the deadline, but an appeals court ruled it was too late.

With the settlement off the table, the case went to trial in Lubbock in 2012. The jury awarded a $5.5 million verdict to the driver and his wife after finding West Star negligent. The verdict was affirmed in a judgment signed in 2015, and the trucking company appealed. The judgment now stands at roughly $7 million with the addition of interest. Family-owned West Star says that amount is enough to put it out of business.

Former Clients Target Lawyer

After the judgment was entered, West Star sued McCathern for legal malpractice. The company says McCathern exposed it to an “excess judgment” by not responding to the settlement offer in time. West Star is seeking nearly $20 million in damages.

The case was set to go to trial last month, but it was put on hold after McCathern filed for personal bankruptcy protection in Dallas. According to court records, he faces more than $1.7 million in bankruptcy debts and an IRS tax lien against him and his wife for $1.2 million. He has yet to provide a full accounting of his debts and assets in the case.

McCathern, who also has been sued by West Star’s insurance company, declined to comment for the Morning News story. His attorney said McCathern filed for bankruptcy protection because his insurance company wouldn’t cover West Star’s malpractice claim.

Meeting Deadlines Key for Every Attorney

Although settlement talks are in the works, this case no doubt will end up impacting everyone involved for years to come. The driver and his wife are still waiting for the money that was approved by a judge and an appeals court. The employees at West Star are unsure how long they’ll continue to have a place to work. And a notable Dallas attorney may end up defending a $20 million legal malpractice lawsuit after filing for bankruptcy protection.

It’s hard to believe this all could have been resolved nearly a decade ago except for a single missed deadline. This complicated case shows how important it is for attorneys to be organized and to make sure they closely monitor clients’ cases to make sure nothing is overlooked.

As lawyers, we owe an extra duty of care to the people who entrust us to protect their legal rights. Answering clients’ questions, keeping them updated on their cases, and meeting important deadlines should be the goal of every attorney.


Law Offices of Brad Jackson Helps Clients Defeat $3 Million Lawsuit


Our team recently obtained a great result for a group of seller and business broker clients in a lawsuit over the sale of an insurance agency. Our clients were facing nearly $3 million in damages after being accused of fraud, negligent misrepresentation, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty and other claims.

This case provides a good example of our work in business disputes and fiduciary litigation, as well as our representation of local and out-of-state clients.

The lawsuit was filed by Frisco, Texas-based CLA USA Property and Casualty Group against our clients from Dallas-based CapRock Services, which provides financing for small businesses, and Sarasota, Florida-based General Insurance Brokerage, LLC, which specializes in brokering the sale of insurance agencies.

Business Lawsuit Background

The dispute arose after General Insurance Brokerage identified Irving, Texas-based Innovative National Risk, LLC, as a potential CLA acquisition target. CLA bought the company from CapRock in 2014.

Shortly after the sale, CLA claimed, among other things, that Innovate National Risk’s operations failed to comply with state and federal laws. CLA argued that it was left holding the bag, accusing our clients of conspiring to make the sale happen so that CapRock could divest itself of the insurance agency and General Insurance Brokerage could collect commission payments.

How We Won

We were brought into the case late to represent CapRock and General Insurance Brokerage, which previously had been defended by separate lawyers.

Together, Brad Jackson and Cheryl Mann began an aggressive defense that resulted in the court striking the testimony of CLA’s expert witnesses, including an attorney, an actuary and a certified fraud examiner. We also convinced the court to enforce a jury trial waiver because we believed that our defense of CLA’s complicated and convoluted claims would be best understood by an experienced trial judge.

By the third day of trial before the Honorable Tonya Parker of the 116th Judicial District Court of Dallas County, we had clearly proven that General Insurance Brokerage, CapRock, and their principals, who CLA had sued personally as well, had done nothing wrong. That same day, CLA voluntarily dismissed all its claims and agreed to pay $200,000 to our client CapRock.

Cases like these are why we come to work every day. Our clients had their backs against the wall, facing millions of dollars in potential damages. We were able to devise an aggressive and effective defense that resulted in the complete vindication of our clients.

Behind Dallas Appeals Court’s $288 Million Ruling Against Credit Suisse

appeals court, dallas, ruling

A verdict of nearly $40 million issued four years ago in Dallas recently was affirmed as a $288 million judgment against Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse. Of course, as with most legal appeals, the story continues.

The case over a failed Las Vegas real estate deal ended its current local run with the recent 35-page ruling authored by Justice Elizabeth Lang-Miers of the 5th District Court of Appeals in Dallas.

The next stop apparently will be in Austin at the Supreme Court of Texas since Credit Suisse almost immediately announced its intention to appeal.

Failed Deal Leads to Vegas-sized Judgment

The ruling addresses Credit Suisse’s failed attempt to void the original 2014 verdict and eventual judgment in favor of the Dallas investment firm Highland Capital Management. Jurors awarded $40 million against Credit Suisse after finding the company duped Highland into investing $250 million to help refinance a Las Vegas resort.

When Lake Las Vegas went belly up as part of the 2008 financial crisis, Highland sued based on allegations that Credit Suisse knowingly manipulated the property’s perceived value by relying on a faulty appraisal, among other claims.

Even though the state district jury in Dallas agreed with Highland, the case continued to go through additional legal wrangling. The trial court eventually approved the verdict amount and signed a 2015 judgment for more than $288 million after ruling that Highland was owed additional damages beyond the $40 million jury award.

Why Appeals Cases Take So Long

With a jury verdict, court judgment and favorable appeals court ruling, some might think Highland is about to pocket a hefty chunk of change. Not so fast. In the land of appeals, as this case perfectly illustrates, the devil is in the details.

In every Texas case when a trial court enters a judgment where money is awarded, the losing party can post a court-approved supersedeas bond or cash deposit to cover the amount.

By doing so, companies such as Credit Suisse can prevent winning parties like Highland from enforcing a judgment while the case is on appeal. Like a lot of big companies, Credit Suisse can find $288 million between its couch cushions, which is one of the many reasons why appeals can take so long to resolve.

Now that Credit Suisse has announced its intention to appeal to the Texas Supreme Court, and since it can appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court in the event of an adverse ruling, it may be years before this legal saga reaches its eventual end.

Although the legal profession strives to uphold the idea that “justice delayed is justice denied,” the truth is that any court case can be delayed if one or more parties have the financial wherewithal and internal fortitude to continue the fight through appeals. Eventually, it’s up to our courts to decide the justice part.


Cryptocurrency Craze Leads to Fraud Charges in Dallas

Photo by David McBee from Pexels

Most of us have seen news reports about the ongoing cryptocurrency craze, including the skyrocketing and plummeting prices for Bitcoin and other electronic currencies. Now, some cryptocurrency companies are facing federal investigators based on allegations of fraud

The latest news comes from Dallas, where a cryptocurrency bank founded less than a year ago has been charged along with its owners of fraud and other alleged wrongdoing. Launched in March 2017, AriseBank claimed to have raised $600 million in the past two months in an initial coin offering (ICO) for its AriseCoins. Such sales are like an initial public offering (IPO) of stock options.

The bank said it had “one of the largest crypto-currency platforms ever built.” But the Fort Worth Regional Office of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission says the bank was nothing more than an “outright scam.” The government says the company misled investors and sold unregistered securities under fraudulent terms.

After falsely claiming that it had purchased an FDIC-insured bank, AriseBank failed to tell investors that its co-founders have prior felony criminal convictions, according to the SEC.

Now, a Dallas federal judge has appointed a receiver to figure out how much of investors’ money, if any, remains.

It’s not hard to imagine that lawsuits from investors will soon follow, although collecting any judgment against AriseBank is now in doubt since the bank has been put under the government’s control and no one appears to yet know if any assets remain.

Investment Scams Nothing New

The trail of investment scams extends nearly as long as investing itself. That is why the cryptocurrency frenzy should send up a warning flare for many of today’s investors. For every quality investment opportunity, there are many more scams nearby.

One notable example came in 1986, when a California teenager formed ZZZZ Best Inc. and claimed the company was the “General Motors of carpet cleaning.” After the company sold millions in stock options, federal investigators discovered that ZZZZ Best was little more than a series of phony documents and sales receipts. In the end, investors lost more than $100 million and the company’s founder was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Perhaps the greatest investment scam in history is rooted in Texas with the fall of energy giant Enron in 2001. Houston-based Enron was ranked as the seventh-largest company in the world. Unfortunately, the company was hiding billions of dollars in debt through a series of accounting transactions that relied on shell companies to conceal dire financial circumstances. In addition to resulting in the collapse of the global accounting firm Arthur Andersen, the fall of Enron caused billions of dollars in losses for investors and employees. More than 4,000 employees were let go after the company filed for bankruptcy protection.

AriseBank Lessons

The AriseBank story should serve as an important lesson for everyone. That’s especially true for those of us who are only mildly familiar with the ins and outs of the investing process. There are seemingly countless state and federal laws covering proper investment protocols and the sale and purchase of securities. Few “regular” investors know all the rules.

No matter how many TV commercials make it look easy to handle your own investment decisions, the truth is that investing is complicated business. Just because you have been successful enough to accumulate enough money to invest on your own doesn’t mean that you’ll enjoy the same success when it comes to finding the right investment opportunity.

That is why it is so important to have a trusted financial advisor and knowledgeable attorney involved if you’re thinking about plunking down your hard-earned cash in hopes of realizing positive returns in the future. Failing to do so could put you in the same position as the investors who backed AriseBank and are now waiting to see if the government can help them reclaim their money.