Carmen Thomas, 26, who found out through a DNA sample sent to 23andMe that she was the daughter of Joseph Brown, has sued Brown’s estate for failing to include her as a part of the wrongful death settlement with a hospital and 2 doctors.  The settlement was made after a judgement finding the hospital and doctors were negligent and caused Brown’s death.

Joseph Brown was neither married nor did he have a will.  As a result, his closest heirs should be the beneficiary of his estate.  Although this was not a Texas case, under Texas law for determining heirship, the court appoints an attorney to represent the unknown heirs.  After the Brown heirship determination (which determined that Brown had 2 daughters, Kali and Abigail Brown), his estate sued a hospital and 2 doctors for his wrongful death as a result of a medical malpractice. A jury awarded $9.5 million to Kali, $9.5 million to Abigail and $1 million to Brown’s estate. As a result of interest, the award was $28 million before the estate settled with the defendants.  Carmen was apparently not discovered as an heir until after she submitted the DNA sample which showed she was a match with Kali.  Carmen’s suit stated Kali admitted that Kali, Abigail and Carmen all had the same father, Joseph Brown.

Prior to the settlement, Kali and Abigail seemed excited to know about their previously unknown sibling.  However, immediately before the settlement, Kali informed Carmen by text that she needed time to think about things as she and her sister were still in a lot of grief and that they needed a mental break from Carmen.  Carmen wished her peace and healing in her text reply.

The jury on the wrongful death suit was chosen only a few days after Kali requested the break from Carmen.  Carmen later discovered about the suit and settlement.  After she found out about the judgement and settlement, Carmen sued the administrator of the Estate (Kali and Abigail’s mother) for interference with Carmen’s inheritance expectancy, conversion, unjust enrichment and breach of fiduciary duty by the administrator.  Carmen has asked for an accounting and the settlement proceeds being placed in a constructive trust.

Joe Brown failed to plan.  He could have created a will or a trust to state whom he wanted as his beneficiaries (or whom he didn’t want).  Even if he had no assets, he could have clarified what were his wishes instead of letting state law prevail in addition to the costly litigation from lack of planning.

If interested in learning more about this article or other estate planning, Medicaid and public benefits planning, probate, etc., attend one of our free upcoming Estate Planning Essentials workshops by clicking here or calling 214-720-0102. We make it simple to attend and it is without obligation.

Skip to content