Interesting Developments In Inheritance Laws

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Can A Will Be Signed By Initials In Texas

Can a will be signed by initials in Texas

What are the requirements of a will in Texas

Texas requires that a will be in writing and signed by the testator or signed by another person on behalf of the testator and in the testator’s presence and under the testator’s direction.

Can a will be signed by initials in Texas

What happens if Continue reading

Gift Deeds In Texas

Gift deeds in Texas

What are the requirements for deeds in Texas

To be a valid deed, the document must be (1) in writing, (2) signed, (3) describe the property, and (4) delivered. TPC §5.021.

What are the requirements for gift deeds in Texas

To be valid, gift deeds in Texas further require the document set forth (1) the intent of the grantor, (2) the delivery of the Continue reading

Can you have a secret common-law marriage in Texas

Can you have a secret common law marriage in Texas

Texas Law

Texas recognizes common-law marriages or what Texas refers to as” informal” marriages. An informal marriage may be proved by one of two ways. The first way is to introduce a declaration of informal marriage that has been filed with the County clerk. If there is no declaration of marriage, a common law marriage may be proved by showing: (1) agreement to be married; (2) after the agreement, living together in Texas as husband and wife; and (3) representing to others in Texas that they were married. FC §2.401. The statutory requirement of “represented to others” is synonymous with the judicial requirement of “holding out to the public.” Both of these methods of proving an informal marriage depend upon the marriage being open and obvious to anyone who bothers to look.

Can you have a secret common-law marriage in Texas

What happens in those circumstances when the informal marriage is kept secret from a few are many people? The courts have held that a marriage that was secret from only a few members of the couple’s family was a common-law marriage because the marriage was widely known in the community. 734 S.W.2d 27. On the other hand, courts have denied a common law marriage when the marriage was know to only a few. 333 S.W.2d 361. In other words the cohabitation must be professedly as husband and wife, and public, so that by their conduct towards each other they may be known as husband and wife.

Can An Executor Sell Property To Himself

Can an executor sell property to himself in Texas


In a Texas case out of the Houston Court of Appeals in 2016, a will had given a certain piece of land to several of the decedent’s children share and share alike. The will appointed one of the children as the executor of the estate.
The executor sold the property to himself instead of giving it to all the children. The other siblings were not happy and one of them asked the court to void the deed and to remove the executor for his actions. The court did remove the executor and voided the deed. The executor appealed.
The executor told the appeals court that the will had a provision that the executor could “sell, manage, and dispose” of the property in the estate. Relying on this provision in the will, the executor said that he had the power under the will to sell the property to himself.

Can an executor sell property to himself

The Court of Appeals was not impressed with the executor’s argument. The court held that the Texas Estates Code did not allow the executor to sell the property to himself unless it was authorized by the will. §356.651, §356.652 and §356.655. They held that the use of the words “sell, manage, and dispose” were not a sufficient authorization for him to deed the property to himself. They upheld the trial court’s ruling that the deed was void and that the executor be removed.

When Are You Dead For Probate Purposes, Part 3

When are you dead for probate purposes

When Are You Dead For Probate Purposes

Everybody knows when you are dead, right? When the question involves when are you dead for probate purposes the answer is not quite so settled. I have written before on this question of when are you dead for probate purposes and those articles are cited at the bottom of this article.

Simultaneous Death Act

The question usually arises because Texas, as most states, has a statute that deals with survivorship when two people die around the same time. In Texas, if you die within 120 hours of another person you are presumed to have died at the same time. Usually when these statutes are invoked, the issue involves close family members like a husband and wife. If the husband and wife die close together in time, the state doesn’t want to require the children to have to file an estate for the father and then put his money into the mother’s estate and then open an estate for the mother and put her money into the estate of the father and then…. you can see the point. The issue is also important in joint accounts with right of survivorship. If the joint owners die close together, what happens to the money. The Simultaneous Death Act resolves that problem. One final issue is what happens when a will speaks to what happenes to the property if the testator and the main beneficiary die in a common disaster. Common disaster means (“[a]n event that causes two or more persons [with related property interests] . . . to die at very nearly the same time, with no way of determining the order of their deaths.”) This last issue relating to the definition of common disaster was the subject of a 2016 case out of the Texas Supreme Court. NO. 14-0406 consolidated with NO. 14-0407.


A husband murdered his wife at 8:59 PM and then shortly thereafter at 10:55 PM killed himself. They had nearly identical wills with provisions relating to what happens to their estate if they died in a “common disaster.” The issue before the court was whether or not these two people died in a common disaster? The trial court had ruled that they did die in a common disaster. The Court of Appeals agreed holding that the homicide-suicide was “a common disaster in spite of the fact that husband did not successfully kill himself immediately” because the shots that killed the husband and wife “were fired in one episode.” The Supreme Court however disagreed and ruled that the husband and wife did not die in a common disaster.

Construing A Will

The Supreme Court said that this was a case of construing a will, plain and simple. While the trial court and the Court of Appeals had discussed the Texas Simultaneous Death Act, the Supreme Court said that that act did not apply because the wills addressed the situation and had to be followed. The court stated that common disaster has a settled legal meaning. One of the requirements is that the order of death must be uncertain. In the case under review, there was no uncertainty as to the order of death. Common disaster fails to encompass unrelated but closely timed deaths. Therefore the doctrine of common disaster did not apply in this case. The provisions in the will dealing with what happens to the property if the husband and wife die in a common disaster never become effective.

The other two articles I have written concerning the issue of when are you did for probate purposes are here and here.

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We handle litigation involving inheritance disputes. We don't prepare wills. We handle a select few cases on contingency. Don't use a comment to ask a personal question about an inheritance issue because your name and comment will be public. To ask a litigation question and to protect your privacy, click the red button to the right.