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 […]
3 February 2012

Failure to probate will cost son mineral interests

I have written previously that legal heirs and beneficiaries should pay close attention to mineral interests possibly owned by the decedent.   With modern drilling technologies, previously dormant areas have become hot beds of drilling activity.  A prime example is the Eagle Ford Shale formation in South Texas, streching from Webb to Karnes to Leon counties. Several will contests and trust disputes I’ver handled involved oil and gas interests throughout Texas.  What was previously a relatively modest estate can become quite large if the interest is in one of the modern drilling hot beds, such as the Eagle Ford Shale, the […]
22 February 2010

Oil and gas royalties

Legal heirs and beneficiaries should pay close attention to mineral interests associated with land owned by the decedent. The Barnett Shale has brought an economic boom to parts of North Texas, with many landowners receiving significant royalty and bonus checks for drilling of natural gas. Not surprisingly, these mineral interests can represent a significant portion of a decedent’s estate. I recently represented children who had been disinherited.  We gathered important evidence that their stepfather had exercised undue on their mother and filed a will contest In Tarrant County Probate Court. The case settled and I was able to obtain for […]