|Nikki Araguz (left) and Thomas Araguz (right)|
It seems likely that both parties have hired their attorneys on a contingency basis, which means the attorneys will take their fee, if any, from a percentage of the parties' financial gain, plus their expenses. These days, attorneys in such cases usually get almost half when their fees and expenses are combined. If Heather Delgado would have left well enough alone, her biological children would probably have a $300,000 fund for their well being, and she would not have subjected them to the public abuse that will likely result from the current media fiasco. Even if Delgado wins everything, and the attorneys take nearly half, her children are likely to be left with $300,000 at most, and only after a fierce battle that will have vilified everyone, is likely to have destroyed personal relationships, and seems likely to have emotionally harmed the very children who best interests are supposedly everyone's primary concern. Consequently, Delgado's legal battle doesn't seem likely to increase the finances available for care for the children, and instead seems likely to reduce the amount of money Thomas's Araguz's children are likely to receive in the end.
In other words, if Heather Delgado truly had the best interests of her biological children in mind, she would have shown the common sense not to involve them in a media frenzy in Texas that seems sure to find its way into their social lives when they return to school in the fall, has made her entire family the object of nation wide discussion and speculation, and seems likely to follow them for years into the future. It seems certain that this sort of legal battle will leave a permanent emotional scar on Thomas Araguz's children; scars that could have easily been avoided.
In addition, while Heather Delgado has chosen to publicly castigate Nikki Araguz for errors in judgment in Nikki's past personal life that have nothing to do with her ability to inherit from her husband, Heather Delgado's shrewish public demeanor has been one of a bigoted, mean spirited, scorned ex-wife, out to dredge up trouble at any cost, and make life miserable for Nikki Araguz, the woman whose relationship with Thomas Araguz implies that he believed Nikki was better able to make him happy, and who apparently judged Heather Delgado's character unworthy enough that he divorced her in 2007.
One of the lessons that it seems anyone can learn from this legal battle, is that it is never too early to begin careful, clear, and explicit, estate planning. It seems apparent that Thomas Araguz died "intestate", meaning without a will, although news articles have not mentioned that fact. Because Thomas Araguz had only specifically designated some of his estate to Nikki Araguz by naming Nikki the beneficiary of his life insurance and pension plan, the rest of his estate is left to the court to decide who should inherit, based on Texas law, because he did not leave a will. If Thomas Araguz had anticipated the potential for his accidental death due to the inherently dangerous nature of his work as a volunteer fireman, he could have more specifically and explicitly designated the handling of his estate with the potentially legally contentious nature of his relationship with Nikki Araguz in mind. He could have created a will and trust that specifically provided for Nikki Araguz regardless of whether or not a court of law considered them legally married, and could have made Nikki Araguz the executor of his estate and the trustee of his living trust. He could have had an attorney draft the documents to specifically reflect his wishes for Nikki Araguz, had the documents clearly state that Nikki Araguz should be the heir to his estate regardless of whether or not he was legally married to her, and he could have included specific statements about his awareness that Nikki Araguz had undergone vaginoplasty surgery and has Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome, so that she could not be accused of fraud.