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 […]
7 February 2014

It is difficult to obtain summary judgment dismissal of a will contest

A standard tactic in defending a will contest is for the proponent of the will to seek dismissal by a summary judgment motion.  Under Texas law, a summary judgment dismisses a case before trial. It is designed to dispose of cases where the evidence is so strong that a jury could not reasonably find for the contestant. A summary judgment motion is a very important event in a will contest.  If the contest survives summary judgment, the case will proceed to trial.  Trials are very expensive and the results are not necessarily predictable. Smart lawyers will encourage their clients to explore reasonable settlement possibilties […]
11 November 2013

An executor owes duties to the beneficiaries of an estate

The executor of an estate in Texas owes the beneficiaries certain duties as a fiduciary. An executor is essentially the trustee of the estate’s property. In general terms, the executor has an obligation to gather and safeguard estate assets, pay legitimate claims from creditors, and distribute the remaining assets according the terms of the will. Along with the general obligations to handle estate assets appropriately, an executor owes the beneficiaries a high duty of good faith, fair dealing, honest performance, and strict accountability.  That includes a duty of full disclosure of all material facts known to the executor that might affect the beneficiaries’ […]
12 June 2013

Will contests: No two are the same

I enjoy handling will contest cases because I can help heirs and beneficiaries protect their inheritances.  I also enjoy the challenge of evaluating these cases, as no two are the same.  Each case is highly dependent on the facts and how they are discovered and presented.  In a very recent decision, the Amarillo Court of Appeals began its analysis by highlighting the factually intensive nature of will contests: This is a will contest wherein allegations of lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence typically stand or fall depending on the sufficiency of the facts underlying the trial court’s judgment. . . […]