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Author: Robert Ray

Oral Statements by the Testator about a Texas Will

When a person tells someone how he wants his property handled when he dies but he has a written will or trust, the oral statements will not change how his property is handled if the will or trust is unambiguous. Problem Someone testifies in a Texas will or trust contest that the the testator told them how he wanted his property distributed. The will or trust of the testator specifies how his property is to be distributed. What effect do the testator’s statements have on the Texas will or trust? Facts In her lawsuit, Blanca alleged that when Frank...

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In A Texas Will Contest, Can You Waive Your Right To Appeal

Background In Estate of Crawford, 14-17-00703-CV, (Tex. App. – Houston [14] November 9, 2017) the court of appeals ruled that you can waive your right to appeal in a suit contesting a will. A will was filed for probate by the executor named in the will. Someone else decided to contest the will. The opinion does not set out the relationship between all the parties but they are all named Crawford so one can assume that they are related in some way. On the second day of the trial contesting the will, the attorneys dictated an agreement into the record. The agreement was: [Appellee’s counsel]: We have agreed that both parties will relinquish any claim for good-faith finding and that would enable them to recover attorney’s fees. In consideration, the will contestant has agreed not to appeal this decision — [Appellant’s counsel]: Yes. [Appellee’s counsel]: — and has agreed to relinquish any other claim he might have against any parties, the executor or anyone else for any kind of a bad-faith finding. After losing the will contest, the contestant appealed the decision. He claimed that the agreement was not in writing and that he had fired his attorney that had made the agreement in open court. Ruling An attorney’s authority to (execute an agreement for the client) flows from the agency relationship that exists between the attorney and the client;...

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Does A Texas Will That Says “all other things owned by me…” Include Everything Owed By The Testator

The will In a recent Texas inheritance dispute out of the Fort Worth Court of Appeals, In the Estate of Larry Ronald Neal, Deceased, No. 02-16-00381-CV, (Tex. App. –Fort Worth, Delivered: November 9, 2017), the question was what did the testator mean in his will. The will stated that the beneficiary (a niece) would receive “all my personal effects and all my tangible personal property, including automobiles, hangars, aircraft, fly-drive vehicles, patents, companies, and all other things owned by me at the time of my death, including cash on hand in bank accounts in my own name, or companies[`] names, or securities, or other intangibles.” The dispute The testator’s children asked the court to declare that he died intestate as to his real property since it was not mentioned in the will. The niece claimed that the phrase “and all other things owned by me at the time of my death” was meant to include the real estate. The executor who supported the niece’s position and the niece claimed that several tenants of Texas law applied. They claim that Texas requires that wills be construed so that the testator did not die intestate if at all possible. The appeals court said that presumption fails when the testator “through design or otherwise, has failed to dispose of his entire estate.” The court said that it is clear that the testator...

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What Happens When You File An Inheritance Dispute In The Wrong Texas Court

Facts A recent court of appeals decision illustrates what happens when you file an inheritance dispute in the Wrong Texas Court. An elderly Texas man had nine children. In the last few years of his life, one of his children gained control of the man. She obtained a power of attorney. With that power of attorney, she added herself to his bank account after which the money in the account dropped from over $200,000 down to $109. She also persuaded her father to deed over his real property to her. The man did not have a will. Wrong Court After the elderly man died and the other children realized what had happened, they sued their sister seeking to recover the money from the bank account and to void the deed. They sued her in the district court instead of the probate court. The judge gave them a summary judgment against their sister. The sister appealed on the basis that her siblings had sued in the wrong court. The appeals court agreed and reversed the trial court’s ruling. The court of appeals stated: The well-settled general rule is that heirs cannot sue in their own right as heirs for property of the estate; the executor or administrator must sue.” Because only the probate court and not the district court could appoint an executor or administrator, the district court had no...

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How To Revoke A Trust In Texas

How can you revoke a trust in Texas? In a recent case in Texas, a mother and father had a trust for the benefit of their two children. The mother died. The father later remarried and had two additional children. The father attempted to revoke the first trust and made provisions for the property to go to his four children, share and share alike. When the father died, one of the first two children asked the court to declare that the revocation of the first trust was invalid. The court agreed stating: While a will is generally revocable at any time before the testator’s death, the law governing the revocation of a trust is different. A settlor may revoke a trust unless it is irrevocable by the express terms of the instrument creating it or of an instrument modifying it. No specific words of art are needed to create an irrevocable trust. However, the instrument must clearly reflect the settlors‘ intent to make the trust irrevocable. If a trust is revocable but provides specific terms for how it may be revoked, the trust may not be modified unless those terms are complied with. If settlor of trust reserves power to modify trust only in specific manner, trust may only be modified in that manner. If a trust is revocable and does not contain terms governing its modification or revocation,...

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About me

Robert Ray

Board Certified, Personal Injury Trial Law — Texas Board of Legal Specialization. We handle litigation cases related to inheritance disputes including will contest, related property disputes and associated torts throughout Texas. Our principal office is in Tyler, Texas. Contact Robert