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 […]
2 April 2013

“Incapacitated” does not necessarily equal lack of testamentary capacity

The Dallas Court of Appeals’ decision in Estate of Pilkilton highlights key points for those of us who handle will contests in Texas.  The case originated in Grayson County, where one judge found that the testator was “totally incapacitated” in the context of a guardianship dispute.  While, after death, another judge held that, during the same general time period, the testator had testamentary capacity to execute a new will. The will contestants contended that, under the principal of collateral estoppel, the second judge was prevented from finding that the testator had capacity to execute the will. The Court of Appeals rejected that […]
1 November 2012

Le v. Nguyen: Evidence Supported Decedent’s Lack of Capacity

“Deathbed” wills are often suspect, with this case a compelling example. According to the facts set out in the Houston (14th) Court of Appeal’s decision, the decedent’s sister hired an attorney to prepare a new will while he was in hospital and dying of cancer.  He signed the will four days before he died. The jury found that decedent lacked capacity to execute that will. In affirming the jury’s verdict, the Court of Appeals noted that the testimony and related evidence was conflicting. However, the Court noted that there was sufficient evidence of lack of capacity, including: Alex was in the final stages of […]