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Will We Ever Get To See Harold Simmons’ Will?

Harold Simmons died December 28, 2013, just three weeks after signing his will. It is curious to me that an 82-year-old billionaire would wait that long to get his will squared away. It also seems curious to a probate lawyer friend of mine who told me that, for a variety of reasons, wills in Texas are nearly always public record. Maybe not even nearly always. It might be always. My friend couldn’t think of a single case in which a will was sealed. Yet Harold’s widow, Annette, is seeking to have his last wishes kept private. For now, they are under temporary seal. The probate attorney I talked to said that Annette’s argument that she is “genuinely concerned for her privacy, safety, and security as well as the security of the assets of the Estate” doesn’t make much sense. Everyone knows Harold was a rich man. Everyone knows Annette is a wealthy widow. It is telling that her lawyers, in her petition, do not cite another case in which a will has been sealed.

According to this, “The hearing on the Motion to Seal Court Records will be held in open court and any person may intervene and be heard concerning the sealing of the court records identified in the Motion to Seal Court Records.” The hearing will happen January 29 at 9 a.m. in Probate Court No. 3, 500 Main Street. I would think that there’s a probate attorney somewhere who would want to address the court, argue that a bad precedent could be set with this case, that Harold’s will shouldn’t be treated any differently than, say, Mickey Mantle’s.

6 comments on “Will We Ever Get To See Harold Simmons’ Will?

  1. we’ll get to Simmons will the same time we get to see Michelle Obama’s thesis and Barack’s university transcripts

  2. Both have been released, and were already public record. However, I do not believe that you exist, because I have yet to see your birth certificate. You are the reason why we have “special” schools.

  3. I would think that there’s a probate attorney somewhere who would want to address the court, argue that a bad precedent could be set with this case, that Harold’s will shouldn’t be treated any differently than, say, Mickey Mantle’s.”

    Or maybe even a reporter.

  4. Wills are public for (at least) two good reasons: 1. Creditors of the deceased can better insure that they can get their claims paid, by following the asset trail. 2. Beneficiaries of the deceased can better insure that they know of the gift that the deceased made to them, and they can also follow the assets to make sure that they get paid. If people want to prevent one or both of these situations, they will put their assets into a trust before they die (which Simmons did, to some degree); trust assets are not usually part of the probate estate.

  5. It is unlikely that Mr. Simmons just finally got around to signing a will in the weeks before his death. There was a lot of uncertainty in the tax code over the last few years. Some of this was settled by Congress in early 2013 and odds are that he executed a new will which took the new law into account. Wills of wealthy people often don’t reveal that much because the assets are actually held in trusts, etc., the records of which aren’t filed with the court. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.