• Court rejects undue influence claim regarding account designations
    Many assets pass through beneficiary designations. A significant part of my Texas estate litigation practice involves contesting life insurance beneficiary designations and contesting financial account designations. In Fielding v. Tullos, the Beaumont Court of Appeals considered a contest to financial account designations, based on claims of undue influence. The decedent had various financial accounts at UBS. He was widowed and had no children. His legal heirs included six nieces and nephews. A caretaker began working for the decedent and his wife in 1997. She continued working for the decedent after his wife died in in 2004.  In 2004, the decedent […]
  • How to contest a will in Texas
    Questions regarding the basics of contesting a will or defending a will contest are common from potential clients.  Of course, every case is different.  The most important guidance I can provide is to consult with an experienced probate litigator very, very early in the process.  I can not count the number of times I’ve been asked to consider handling a will contest after the potential client has spent months or more with a lawyer who is a “family friend” or was seemingly picked at random.  That has often put the client already at a tremendous disadvantage before I am ever […]
  • Estate of Harrell: Jury finds testator had capacity
    In Estate of Harrell, the testator’s daughter challenged her father’s capacity to execute a will.  The jury found he had capacity and the Houston Court of Appeals (1st. Dist.) affirmed that decision. The father executed the challenged will in 2012.  The will specifically identified the daughter, but disinherited her.  Instead, he gave his property generally to the sons of a close friend and to his brother.  This was contrary to a will he had executed in 1999. The father died in 2016.  Daughter contested the 2012 will, citing her father’s alleged alcoholism and a hoarding disorder. She also cited the […]
  • Sibling has standing to complain of another sibling
    In Mayfield v. Peek, the El Paso Court of Appeals considered a standing issue.  Standing may sound like a dry issue, particularly to non-lawyers.  But is a crucial issue to my practice of litigating Texas estate and trust beneficiary disputes.  If a court rules that a party does not have standing, it will typically not even reach the merits of the underlying issue.  In layman’s terms, the courthouse doors are closed. Mayfield involved two siblings fighting over an inheritance from their parents. The parents had set up a family revocable trust their children and several other relatives.  The trust was […]
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