TXPL

13 September 2018

Court rejects undue influence claim regarding account designations

Many assets pass through beneficiary designations. A significant part of my Texas estate litigation practice involves contesting life insurance beneficiary designations and contesting financial account designations. In Fielding v. Tullos, the Beaumont Court of Appeals considered a contest to financial account designations, based on claims of undue influence. The decedent had various financial accounts at UBS. He was widowed and had no children. His legal heirs included six nieces and nephews. A caretaker began working for the decedent and his wife in 1997. She continued working for the decedent after his wife died in in 2004.  In 2004, the decedent […]
27 July 2018

How to contest a will in Texas

Questions regarding the basics of contesting a will or defending a will contest are common from potential clients.  Of course, every case is different.  The most important guidance I can provide is to consult with an experienced probate litigator very, very early in the process.  I can not count the number of times I’ve been asked to consider handling a will contest after the potential client has spent months or more with a lawyer who is a “family friend” or was seemingly picked at random.  That has often put the client already at a tremendous disadvantage before I am ever […]
4 March 2018

Yes, a deed can be overturned

A deed is typically considered a non-testamentary disposition.  Property that has been deeded away, either directly or through a retained life estate, is not included in a grantor’s estate at death. But are there ways to overturn a deed under Texas law? Yes.  Like a will or an account/insurance designation, a deed can be set aside if a grantor lacked sufficient mental capacity to execute the deed.  Or if the grantor was subjected to undue influence in executing the deed. The analysis will be similar to a will contest. Mental capacity is relatively straightforward, even if the proof is often […]
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 […]
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