Blog

19 October 2017

Court rejects effort to avoid settlement agreement

In my experience, the vast majority of will contests and related estate disputes are ultimately resolved through settlement at mediation.  The motivation for settlement is driven primarily by several factors: The high costs of litigation.  Lawyers and expert witnesses are expensive.  In some cases, the estate may be responsible for the fees of the  lawyers on both sides; The uncertainty of the results.  Estate cases tend to be very fact specific and the outcome at trial may be determined by how jurors view the contestants on a personal level; The effects of litigation on families.  Litigation often pits family members against […]
1 August 2017

Corpus Christi court upholds undue influence verdict

In Estate of Jose M. Rodriguez the Corpus Christi Court of Appeals considered a verdict denying probate to a will because of undue influence. The court of appeals upheld the jury’s verdict. Proof of a claim of undue influence has three elements: (1) the existence and exertion of an influence; (2) that subverted or overpowered the testator’s mind at the time he executed the instrument; (3) so that the testator executed an instrument he would not otherwise have executed but for that influence. A contestant may establish undue influence by direct or circumstantial evidence, but it is more frequently established by the […]
10 May 2017

Account designations in favor of an ex-spouse

For decades, Texas law has provided that a designation of a spouse as a beneficiary in a life insurance policy or a will is rendered void by a divorce. The exceptions are limited. The provision regarding life insurance policies is found in Section 9.301 of the Texas Family Code. The provision regarding wills is found in Section 123.001 of the Texas Estates Code. These provisions often arise in my life insurance beneficiary dispute practice and in estate disputes. Until recently, there was no similar provision regarding beneficiary designations for multi-party financial accounts. In 2015, the Texas legislature added Texas Estates […]
28 March 2017

Testator lacked capacity to execute estate planning documents

In Texas Capital Bank v. Asche, the Dallas Court of Appeals affirmed the probate court’s judgment that a series of estate planning documents should be set aside. The judgment was based on jury findings that the testator lacked sufficient mental capacity to execute the documents. This was not the classic case of challenged will executed in the days or weeks before death. In this case, the challenge was to a series of wills, codicils, and trust documents executed over a period of about 13 years. This was not an easy task for the contestants, given the long time period and […]
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