Tuesday, August 17, 2010

News Conference with Attorney Darrell Steidley Monday August 16, 2010

What follows is a complete transcript of the news conference that attorney Darrell Steidley gave outside the Wharton County District Courthouse on Monday afternoon August 16, 2010, after the hearing inside. Mr. Steidley represents Nikki Araguz in her defense of the probate lawsuit filed against her by Heather Delgado, her late husband's ex-wife, and her late husband's mother, Simona Longoria. In it, Mr. Steidley provides answers to many questions that have not been clarified elsewhere.

Darrell Steidley: All parties are in agreement that anything we can do that facilitates benefits going to the children we want to do that. That’s always been our position. Nikki is all for that. We have never made any claim against any of those benefits. We never will. So, I think you just saw today, a less heated exchange about that, because that was the focus today.

There wasn’t any objection. Everything was mostly just housekeeping as far as form and substance and order. We got that handled. They appointed Thomas’s mother the administrator of the estate so that she can start to handle that business.

Reporter: Any idea how much the benefits are that are going to the children?

Darrell Steidley: Well I don’t know what the exact number is. I know that I’ve had a crash course from the benefits administrator on that. I think that when you add it up, it’s quite a sizable figure.

Reporter: Like six figures? Can you give is a potential range?

Darrell Steidley: I think that the range is somewhere in the neighborhood of $300,000 for the children, but it could be more than that. But I just think that is a tremendous thing that we have in place for our people who put themselves in harm’s way each and every day such as firefighters. We are just trying to get that facilitated. Again, like I said, we are trying to move that as fast as we can to get that to the children because none of that is in dispute.

Reporter: So as a result of today’s actions in court the children, the wheels are in motion to get the children their $300,000?

Darrell Steidley: Absolutely. The first step in any probate proceeding before you can start to administer any funds out of that would be to appoint the administrator and personal representative. However, most of the benefits will be of what they call a non-testamentary kind. They don’t have to pass through the estate. They are benefits. But what happens when litigation occurs is that, necessarily parties become a little timid about taking actions because they want to make sure that everything is handled appropriately. We are trying to alleviate any of that. There’s no roadblocks on our part. So, anything we can do to put them (insurance and benefits companies) at ease or make them feel like there is no liability on their part, that’s just not an issue for us.

Reporter: So, is Thomas’s mother going to be the administrator of the $300,000 going to the children, or is it strictly his personal belongings?

Darrell Steidley: No. She is just in charge of the estate as it is. We are not sure exactly what the amount of funds that are going to be in it. I mean Thomas and Nikki were not wealthy people so the estate as I understand it is not very large to begin with. So, we just want to make sure that whatever there was, the children can use it for support. They need it, so that they can have access to it as quickly as possible. So that is what that is about.

Reporter: So she is not going to be the administrator of the benefits going to the children?

Darrell Steidley: No, that’s going to be, that’s not a fine line. Like any legal question, your probably not going to get a straight answer. But, the way that those work on non-testamentary transfers, much like the way that Nikki’s funds were approved last week. Those were designated specifically for her, so they don’t have to go through the probate proceeding to be approved. Those are things by law that pass just directly to the people that receive those benefits. So the children, and the benefits that the children get, it’s my understanding that many of those benefit function in the same fashion, where you don’t have to go through the estate, but there are certain things have to be taken care of on a personal level, to make certain they get what they are due under Thomas’s estate. So that is the gist of that.

Reporter: So, why wasn’t Nikki here today?

Darrell Steidley: It was just unnecessary for her to appear. We discussed everything that was going to happen today. The last time was a temporary restraining order where she was ordered to appear by the court, which is quite normal. But today was more of housekeeping issue. The reason Mrs. Longoria was here was because she has certain obligations she must perform under the law such as making testimony that is required under the probate code so that she can she can become the administrator. So she has to put that on the record. That’s why she was here today.

Reporter: And what money was approved for Nikki? Was it the $60,000?

Darrell Steidley: Correct. It was a life insurance policy Thomas specifically named her the beneficiary of the funds in case something happened to him. The benefits themselves are designated all across the country is my understanding. It’s not a designated beneficiary where you name somebody. These are funds setup strictly for the spouse and the children. And of course we know we are having litigation about Nikki’s designation as the spouse. So that’s that issue. But there is no issue with the children so that is something we are trying to help with in any way that we can. Although obviously we are not acting on behalf of the children, but we are trying to help them in any way we can.

[ … name spellings given ]

Reporter: What is the next step?

Darrell Steidley: What is happening now is that we are going through the suit over the disposition of the marriage itself. That is in the discovery process, where each party gets to provide questions and requests for documents for evidence, and we will have some depositions, so you are probably looking at sixty to ninety days before there is a hearing.

Reporter: And your Motion to Dismiss, that was based on the new provision in the Texas Family code?

Darrell Steidley: Correct. And I filed that, and then that is just something I do, but afterward I started thinking whether that was something I wanted to pursue at that time, but I wanted to get that filed. The judge wants to see more evidence before he is inclined to take it up basically is what he was saying, so it was properly handled. Okay? You are welcome, thank you.

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