The John M. O’Quinn Foundation, the sole beneficiary of the estate of John M. O’Quinn in his will, has standing to intervene in litigation filed in his probate case by O’Quinn’s longtime companion, Darla Lexington, over assets. In a Nov. 3 opinion in In Re Darla Lexington O’Quinn, a 1st Court of Appeals panel that included justices Evelyn Keyes, Laura Carter Higley and Michael Massengale, unanimously denied a petition for mandamus filed by Lexington. Lexington wanted the Houston appeals court to overturn an order from Harris County Probate Judge Mike Wood that allows the foundation to intervene in the probate case and seek declaratory relief in it. As Keyes wrote in the opinion, the foundation intervened in Estate of John M. O’Quinn in April 2010. In that probate case, the foundation seeks a declaratory judgment that, among other things, O’Quinn was not married “either formally or informally” at the time of his death; he left all personal effects and property under the will to the foundation; and the foundation is the sole residual beneficiary of the O’Quinn Law Firm Testamentary Trust. O’Quinn died in an automobile accident in October 2009. In July 2010, Lexington sued the executor in Harris County’s 125th District Court seeking property she alleges belongs to her “as a result of her community property interests acquired by marriage, and received by gifts.” Wood signed an order transferring Lexington’s district court suit to the probate court and consolidated it with the foundation’s petition for declaratory relief in Estate of John M. O’Quinn. Those matters are set for trial in January. Kathy Patrick, a partner in Gibbs & Bruns in Houston who represents the foundation, says her client is pleased with the 1st Court’s opinion. “It means the foundation will be a full party to the case,” Patrick says. An attorney for the estate, Dale Jefferson, a partner in Martin, Disiere, Jefferson & Wisdom of Houston who represents the executor of the estate, says the opinion means the foundation “has an absolute right to have a voice at the table when there are conflicting claims made to the same assets.” Jimmy Williamson, a partner in Williamson & Rusnak in Houston who represents Lexington, did not return a telephone call seeking comment.
-- Brenda Sapino Jeffreys