Will interpretation

9 October 2018

A killer can’t inherit

Texas, like many other states, prohibits a killer from receiving life insurance proceeds or inheriting from an estate.  Such prohibitions are commonly referenced as either a “slayer statute” or a “slayer rule.” The public policy is obviously that a killer should not financially benefit from a death he or she willfully causes.  Given the sizes of many estates and life insurance policies, such scenarios are unfortunately not uncommon.   Certainly, investigators and prosecutor will look to whether insurance or estate proceeds might have provided motive for a particular murder. There have even been some notorious cases of people taking out […]
17 January 2017

Court may construe a will before it is admitted to probate

Many will contests involve a challenge to the validity of a will, such as claims it did not meet formality requirements or that the testator lacked capacity or was subjected to undue influence. However, sometimes the primary dispute is how to interpret one or more provisions of a will. I find this to be most often the case when the will is not prepared by an experienced estate planing lawyer. Unfortunately, homemade wills often contain confusing, unclear, or outright contradictory provisions.  Or a testator may have an excellent will drafted by a lawyer, only to make a homemade codicil that […]
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 […]
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 […]
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