Will interpretation

3 May 2013

Texas Supreme Court enforces arbitration clause in a trust

Today, the Texas Supreme Court released an anticipated opinion in Rachal v. Reitz. In the opinion, the Court upheld an arbitration clause in a trust dispute, requiring the trust beneficiaries to bring their claims against the trustee in arbitration instead of court. Arbitration clauses are typically only enforceable against those who sign a contract containing the clause.  However, the Court decided that the beneficiaries were bound by the clause under the doctrine of direct benefits estoppel, stating: [A] beneficiary who attempts to enforce rights that would not exist without the trust manifests her assent to the trust’s arbitration clause. For example, a […]
27 July 2011

Contesting the internet will

I’m not an estate planner and do not evaluate the quality of the will kits available at various book stores or on the internet.  I have heard from colleagues who draft wills and trusts that these form kits are often flawed in substance and fail to comply with various technical requirements of state law or do not really offer the tax benefits advertised. As a probate litigation attorney, I have another perspective on these will kits.  They are easier to challenge than a will or trust prepared by an attorney and where the execution is overseen by an attorney.  I […]
17 April 2009

County Courts at Law do not have jurisdiction to consider trust disputes

Subject matter jurisdiction in Texas contested probate and trust cases is a patchwork, often confusing, system.  The fear of all parties is litigating a case for years, only to find out on appeal that the lower court had no jurisdiction to consider key issues. Subject matter jurisdiction can not be conferred on a particular court by agreement, estoppel, or judicial admissions.  Furthermore, lack of subject matter jurisdiction is an issue a party may raise for the first time on appeal. These concepts are highlighted in a recent opinion by the Fort Worth Court of Appeals.  In Wood v. Boldt, the […]