Monday, June 8, 2020
You may remember the old schoolboy trick, "My dog ate my homework." However, judges do not often hear that a lawyer's dog ate the original will. Yet, this is one of the issues that was brought before Bexar Probate Judge Oscar Kazen, involving the estate of Billie Ray Hood, who died in San Antonio in 2014.
Debra Ann Catalani, one of Hood's daughters, said the will, which gave everything to Hood's three children— was eaten by a dog that belonged to her lawyer, William E. Leighner. The will was consumed by a lawless and rambunctious two-year-old golden doodle named Linus. Linus took the original will out through the doggy door, into the back yard and "devoured it."
This mishap is likely to resurface in a brutal family struggle over Hood's assets, estimated to be worth more than $50,000. Six years before drafting the 2009 will, Billie had made another will giving all of her assets to her husband Jack Hood, who was not the father of her three children. Now Kristi Hood, one of Jack Hood's children is contesting the second will, asserting that the earlier one is the only "valid will" before the court. Kristi Hood said her offer to split the proceeds from the Hood's home was rejected.
The first legal challenge to the second will as made in 2015 but laid dormant until last year. Leighner claims that the contest should be dismissed for lack of prosecution since plaintiff has not sought discovery much less a trial date. He also claims that you can probate a copy of a will under certain circumstances. The plaintiff's attorneys have been quick to patronize Leighner (all in good fun), but the issue is far from resolved.
See John MacCormack Dog ‘ate the will’ case headed to trial, San Antonio Express-News, June 4, 2020.
Special thanks to Laura Galvan (Attorney, San Antonio, Texas) for bringing this article to my attention.