Will contests

5 July 2016

Estoppel does not prevent beneficiary from pre-suit discovery

The Fort Worth Court of Appeals decision in In Re Meeker involves two important issues for probate litigators: entitlement to pre-suit discovery and estoppel based on acceptance of benefits. Both issues arise fairly regularly in will contests. Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 202 provides a limited method to obtain discovery of facts before actually filing a suit.  It is a useful tool when a litigant suspects they have a valid claim, but wish to investigate further before actually filing suit. There are some exacting requirements of the rule and the discovery tools are more limited than would be allowed in […]
27 February 2016

In re Estate of Parrimore: Court of appeals upholds factual findings regarding capacity and undue influence

Texas appellate courts are generally reluctant to overturn trial court factual findings regarding testamentary capacity and undue influence. In re Estate of Parrimore, from the Houston 14th Court of Appeals, is an example. Parrimore involved a trial to the judge (bench trial) of a will contest.  The contest involved the usual issues regarding testamentary capacity and undue influence. The evidence at trial was that the testator signed the will only 11 days after being released from the hospital for treatment after a stroke. However, there was also evidence that the testator had begun work on his will long before the […]
19 November 2015

When offering a will can lead to criminal charges

The Mary Ellen Bendtsen estate has been the subject of much media coverage in the Dallas area.  The short version of events is that she owned a historic mansion on Swiss Avenue in Dallas. Several years before her 2005 death, she was befriended by two much young antique dealers, including Mark McCay. Eight days before she died, she executed a will in a hospital leaving the house to McCay and the other dealer. The entire saga is the subject a series of stories in the Dallas Morning News and became something of a rallying point against financial abuse of the elderly […]
14 November 2014

Estate of Hemsley

Sherman Hemsley was a popular actor, known for playing George Jefferson in “All in the Family” and the “The Jeffersons.”  He was never married and had no children.  He died in El Paso in 2012 after a battle with lung cancer. About six weeks before he died, Hemsley executed a will leaving his estate to his close friend and business manager, Flora Bernal.  Hemsley’s half brother and cousin challenged the will, claiming that Hemlsey lacked testamentary capacity or was unduly influenced or did not sign the will.  After a bench trial in El Paso Probate Court No. 1, the judge […]
Consultation