Blog

18 October 2016

Estate of Matthews: Successful challenge to marriage

A fairly common scenario in estate litigation involves a claim from a widow to a share of an estate.  Often there is a claim of a common law marriage. Texas recognizes common law marriage under some circumstances.  Once established, a common law marriage is effectively the same as a formal marriage. Even a formal marriage can be challenged, under limited circumstances.  After a person’s death, an interested person may petition a court to annual a marriage entered into less than three years before death, by proving that: on the date the marriage occurred, the decedent did not have the mental capacity to: […]
5 July 2016

Estoppel does not prevent beneficiary from pre-suit discovery

The Fort Worth Court of Appeals decision in In Re Meeker involves two important issues for probate litigators: entitlement to pre-suit discovery and estoppel based on acceptance of benefits. Both issues arise fairly regularly in will contests. Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 202 provides a limited method to obtain discovery of facts before actually filing a suit.  It is a useful tool when a litigant suspects they have a valid claim, but wish to investigate further before actually filing suit. There are some exacting requirements of the rule and the discovery tools are more limited than would be allowed in […]
20 June 2016

Garrett v. First State Bank of Central Texas: No informal fiduciary relationship

In Garrett v. First State Bank of Central Texas, the Waco Court of Appeals considered a dispute over the ownership of a decedent’s account. The bank filed an interpleader when faced with competing claims to the account proceeds, between the decedent’s estate and his caregiver. The decedent added the caregiver as a signatory to his money market account. After decedent’s passing, the caregiver claimed he wanted the account to pass to her after his death. But the trial court ruled the account documents the decedent signed did not make her the survivorship beneficiary. There was a dispute as to whether […]
11 May 2016

Mind your QDRO

I routinely handle life insurance beneficiary disputes. As I mentioned in a previous post, the first issue I analyze is whether the life insurance policy is governed by state law or by a federal law known as ERISA. Many ERISA policy disputes involve claims by former spouses to life insurance benefits.  Many states bar former spouses from receiving life insurance benefits if the designation was  made prior to the divorce. But such state laws are generally superseded by ERISA.  Often there is a claim that the former spouse waived their beneficiary status in the divorce decree.  A state divorce decree judgment […]
Consultation