Hegwood Law - July 2019

GONE TO THE DOGS How Can a Thief Sue the Family He Robbed?

Have you heard the story of Terrence Dickson? Even if you don’t know the name, you might have heard his strange tale. Dickson was a burglar in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. One day, after breaking into a house and helping himself to some valuables, Dickson decided to leave through the garage. After discovering the automatic garage door was stuck closed, Dickson turned around and was horrified to realize he’d locked himself inside. To make matters worse, the family he was stealing from had just left for an extended vacation, so Dickson lived off of soda and dried dog food for eight days. When the family returned and found the unlucky burglar, a lawsuit was filed — by Dickson! He sued for mental anguish, and the jury awarded him $500,000. There’s nothing that shakes our faith in the justice systemquite like injustice being served. When Dickson’s story first gained notoriety in 2001, thanks to an email circulated by the now-defunct Stella Awards newsletter, which highlighted “outrageous lawsuits,” people were rightfully enraged. There was just one problem: Terrence Dickson never existed. In 2002, a reporter from Pennsylvania contacted the Bucks County prothonotary's office, where all records for civil cases in the county are kept. He discovered there was no record of any cases involving such

a burglar. It’s worth noting the original email where this story first appeared ended with a call for tort reform from a made-up law firm in Ohio. Likely, this hoax was an attempt to manipulate the public perception of the justice system. Despite being debunked 17 years ago, this tall tale still makes the rounds and often appears on lists of “outrageous lawsuits,” many of which are featured on the websites of legitimate law firms!

There are plenty of wacky legal cases, but when a story is too ridiculous, there’s a good chance a few important details are being left out or the readers are being lied to. Don’t believe everything you read online!


What 'Romeo and Juliet' Can Teach Us About Estate Planning

who have never even met one another. We have a great example of this in our own office. Few people know that attorney Kim Hegwood’s middle name is Amelia, yet that name has stayed in her family for generations.

Originally published for the public in 1597, Shakespeare’s now famous “Romeo and Juliet” continues to capture the hearts and minds of readers all over the world hundreds of years later. Amid the family turmoil, vilified love affairs, and tragic deaths, one line tends to resonate with audiences better than the rest. Juliet, in referencing her ambivalence about Romeo’s background, ponders, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” While Shakespeare’s beautifully penned line captures young Juliet’s ardor for her beloved Romeo, all of us here at Hegwood Law Group adhere to a different school of thought when it comes to the value of one’s name. Names serve an important function: They carry a family’s legacy from one generation to the next. A name can help foster a relationship between relatives

Taking the time to meet with an attorney to prepare the necessary estate planning legal documents is similar to keeping a family name in circulation, but it has more pragmatic and assured results. Even though Texas has a rather simple probate process compared to other states, Texas residents are eager to avoid probate court proceedings that may be costly and time-consuming. If you want to save your family the hassle of probate after you die, Hegwood Law Group can help you. Usually, the best way to avoid probate is to transfer your assets to your beneficiaries by establishing a revocable living trust. Once you put your assets into a living trust, they are managed by your appointed trustee and are not liable to probate or estate tax. There are many other benefits to establishing a revocable living trust, but you should first determine if this option is right for you and your family by meeting with one of our attorneys. Go to HegwoodLaw.com to fill out a consultation form, or give us a call at (281) 612-9614!


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