In re Cokinos, Boisien & Young, 523 S.W.3d 901 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2017, no pet.).

Estate Administration

E-mail Access


The court ordered a law firm to turn over to an attorney’s executor e-mails between the attorney and the firm concerning a lawsuit that may be relevant to a fee-sharing dispute between the attorney and the law firm. The order included a protective order to preserve potentially confidential and privileged communications. The law firm petitioned for a writ of mandamus to prevent enforcement of the judge’s disclosure order.


The appellate court denied the petition. The court explained that the executor had a duty to collect all debts due the estate and the e-mails were relevant to the claim for fees against the law firm. If the attorney were alive, the attorney would have had access to the e-mails and thus so does the executor. Note that the court did not address whether any specific document might be privileged or subject to the attorney-client work product doctrine.


[The court decided this case without reference to the newly enacted Texas Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act as it was decided prior to the Act’s effective date.]


Moral:  An attorney may find it prudent to keep paper copies of documents relating to fees so that the attorney’s executor can have unfettered access to them.