Interesting Developments In Inheritance Laws

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Arbitration Clauses In Wills

Arbitration

What is an arbitration clause

The Supreme Court of Texas upheld an arbitration clause in a trust and the same reasoning may apply to wills although the court has not ruled on this question where a will was involved. Arbitration clauses are usually found in contracts or other agreements. The parties agree to arbitrate. Disputes are submitted to an arbitrator instead of being tried by a court in a lawsuit. There are perceived cost savings with arbitration and arbitration can be quicker than normal litigation. One of the main benefits of arbitration is privacy. Litigation is public, arbitration is private.

Arbitration clauses in wills

A testator may not want the world to know about his estate and may prefer that all disputes be settled by arbitration.  In the context Continue reading

Relationship Poisoning And Undue Influence

Undue InfluenceHistory of Undue Influence

The doctrine of undue influence derives from English courts.  A will contest heard by Sir Francis Bacon as the Lord Chancellor of England in 1617 illustrates common aspects of the process of undue influence which emerged in the context of a will contest.  These aspects include frail health, and physical dependency, false affection, relationship poisoning, threats and mistreatment, and involvement in the execution of documents by and in favor of the alleged abuser. UNDUE INFLUENCE: DEFINITIONS AND APPLICATIONS.

Relationship poisoning and undue influence.

What is relationship poisoning in the context of a will contest? A Texas court held that when a person makes negative remarks Continue reading

Pretermitted Spouse and Premarital Agreement

Pretermitted wifeWhat is a pretermitted spouse

Texas does not recognize a pretermitted (forgotten) spouse so this article has no application to Texas. Some states do recognize a pretermitted spouse and I have written about those states here. Basically, a pretermitted spouse is someone who marries a person after that person has made a will. If the will is not revised and the parties are still married on the death of the one who made the will, the surviving or pretermitted spouse will take a portion of the estate even though they are not mentioned in the will.

Pretermitted Spouse and Premarital Agreement

In a 2014 case from California, which does recognize a pretermitted spouse, the court was asked to determine if a premarital Continue reading

Executor Violates Duty because of a Mistake

Executor Violates Duty because of a Mistake  Intentional or Negligence Acts

This post concerns fiduciary duties in Texas. The case that is discussed deals with an Executor but could also apply to a trustee or any other fiduciary in Texas. A court of appeals ruled in 2014 that a Texas Executor commits breach of trust not only where he violates a duty in bad faith, or intentionally although in good faith, or negligently but also where he violates a duty because of a mistake. Executor Violates Duty because of a Mistake even if he relied on his attorney for advise. No. 02-14-00170-CV.

Executor Violates Duty because of a Mistake

A man died. He had two sons. First son was appointed executor under the man’s will. Second son was, for some reason, not Continue reading

Good Faith Exception in Will Contest

Good Faith Exception to No Contest Clauses in WillsGood Faith Exception

Texas and many other states will  enforce forfeiture clauses in wills if the contestant is not successful. The clauses are know as no contest provisions or in terrorem clauses . Texas has a Good Faith Exception in Will Contest involving no-contest clauses. There is an exception to enforcement if the person contesting the will brings the action in good faith. EC 254.005. In that case, the courts will not enforce no-contest forfeiture clauses.

Some states like Mississippi had not recognized the good faith exception to forfeiture but that has changed.  In 2015 the Mississippi Supreme Court in Parker v. Benoist recognized the good faith exception. The court stated that the logic for a good faith exception is simple: courts exist to determine the truth. Continue reading