Cases

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 […]
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 […]
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: […]
26 May 2014

A claim for tortious interference with inheritance is not necessarily a “probate proceeding”

In In re Hannah, the Houston Fourteenth Court of Appeals considered the Texas Estates Code definitions of a “probate proceeding” and a “matter related to a probate proceeding.”  The case involved a claim by the beneficiary of prior wills against the beneficiaries of a later will.  The claim was that the later beneficiaries tortiously interfered with the prior beneficiary’s expected inheritance. The tortious interference case was filed in Harris County.  The will depriving the earlier beneficiary of her interest was filed and admitted to probate in Aransas County.  The beneficiaries of that will were defendants in the Harris County suit.  They contended […]
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