Baylor Law Dean Brad Toben says, "A person cannot work with trust and estate or marital property law in Texas without seeing his handiwork." He is Tom Featherston, the Mills Cox Professor of Law and 2009 recipient of the Distinguished Probate Lawyer Lifetime Achievement Award, which is given by the 7,300-member Real Estate, Probate & Trust Law Section of the State Bar of Texas.
Featherston has been involved with trusts and estates law since he was a young lawyer with Butler, Binion, Rice, Cook & Knapp in Houston and was assigned to the T&E section of the firm.
"During my interview, I said that I liked Loy Simpkins' trusts and estates class that I was taking, and that was the area of practice I was assigned when I joined the firm," he said. "I enjoy this area of the law because you help solve people's problems during one of the biggest crises in their lives – the death of a loved one."
A frequent presenter at CLE events across the country that deal with marital property rights and trusts and estates, Featherston has participated since 1988 in the State Bar's annual Advanced Estate Planning and Probate Course, although he did miss 2007 because of a family emergency. He also presents regularly at the State Bar's Advanced Drafting: Estate Planning and Probate course and the Advanced Estate Planning Strategies course. He made his first CLE presentation in 1976, when he was asked to lecture on the Generation Skipping Transfer Tax that had just been enacted.
ome of Featherston's most high-profile work has been on Texas legislation that deal with the subjects he teaches-marital property and trusts and estates. In the 1980s, he served as chairman of the State Bar committee tasked to revise the Texas guardianship statutes, while in the 1990s, he served as chairman of the committee to study and revise claims procedures of the Texas Probate Code. In 1997-1998, he chaired the Real Estate, Probate and Trust Law section of the State Bar.
Recently, he co-chaired the State Bar's REPTL section's cooperative efforts with the Texas Legislature's Legislative Council in re-codifying the Texas Probate Code, the first and most comprehensive change in the statutory law affecting decedents' estates in more than 50 years. Featherston also provided oversight for two bar committees charged with drafting new substantive law legislation in the area of probate court venue and jurisdiction and independent administration and served as the academic resource for the Texas Legislative Council as issues were raised during the non-substantive new probate code drafting process.
"It seems as if I have had some part of just about every change in the statutes that govern, trusts and estates for the last 20 years," he said.
Featherston also participates in committee work for the American Bar Association, where he served on the governing council of the Real Property, Trust and Estate Law Section and currently serves on its task force on teaching trusts and estates in law schools and its planning and nomination committees. He also has served as the Trusts and Estates editor of Probate & Property, the section's magazine, since 1999.
Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Featherston was elected as an Academic Fellow of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel in 1991 and as a Fellow of the American Bar Foundation in 1993. He was named Outstanding Baylor University Professor in 2000. He also has received the Journal Award of the Texas Bar Foundation and the Award for Outstanding Achievement in Continuing Legal Education from the State Bar College.
In addition to serving as the Trusts and Estates Articles Editor for Probate & Property, he co-authors West's Texas Practice Guide – Probate on an annual basis and has co-authored Drafting for Tax and Administration Issues, an ABA publication. Featherston also authored the first edition of Questions and Answers: Wills, Trusts & Estates, published by LexisNexis, and co-authored the second edition.
Featherston earned his J.D. with highest honors from Baylor Law School in 1972 after receiving his B.B.A. from Baylor University in 1971. After graduation, he entered private practice in Houston from 1972 through 1982. He joined Baylor Law School in 1982 and was appointed the Mills Cox Chair in 1990.