This Week in Probate and Guardianship Appeals

Estate of Pauline Moran Allen, Tyler Court of Appeals This week’s entry comes to us from the 12th District Court of Appeals in Tyler. Dollie Weir appealed the trial court’s order which granted Leonard Allen’s motion for summary judgment. Two Issues were raised by Dollie, (1) that Leonard failed to present any summary judgment evidence to support his motion, and (2) that the thirteen writings, purported to be a codicil to Pauline Moran Allen’s Will, lacked testamentary intent. Summary Judgment …

Alternatives to Guardianships for Minors: Section 867 Trusts

In many cases, the Court’s creation of a guardianship of the estate for an incapacitated individual or a minor may be inevitable. It may be the least restrictive option for the Court. However, many times I am approached by clients for whom there are lesser-restrictive and more efficient mechanisms or processes that can achieve many of the same goals. When faced with the situation that a minor child is supposed to inherit some money from a parent or grandparent, the …

Non-Probate Assets

Every estate planning client is unique. There are simply far too many variables to boil effective estate planning down to a “one-size-fits-all” approach. Families and loved ones are diverse and dynamic, and assets vary immeasurably from one circumstance to the next. However, there are some common elements in most cases. The coordination of what are typically known as “non-probate assets” is one of those elements that comes up in the case of nearly every estate planning client that I counsel. …

Wall Street Journal Article Fails the Test

In the Wall Street Journal’s issue on November 12, 2009, Journal writer Jane Hodges offers a “Cranky Consumer” article in which she compares and contrasts various online programs to create a do-it-yourself Will. The article, entitled “Before It’s Too Late: A Test of Online Wills,” provides a review of how easy each program is to use, and it offers information on costs, services, and technical support for each of the programs reviewed. However, Ms. Hodges seems to fail her own …

A Peer of Your Juries

An article concerning the probate of the Estate of local oil pioneer provides an interesting glimpse into the mind of potential jurors. I recently ran across a Houston Chronicle article concerning the Estate of Alfred C. Glassell. It seems the daughter of the oil pioneer and cultural philanthropist has contested the probate of his will, on the grounds that he was unduly influenced. Her claim revolves around the allegation that local museums (i.e. their attorneys) convinced the elderly man to …

Dying Without a Will in Texas: What Happens?

February, 2006 By Jason Brower Question: “Is it true that the state gets everything if I die without a Will?” Concerned clients routinely ask this question expressing their concern in keeping the State from taking their hard-earned estate upon their deaths. Fortunately, the State does not take the property of someone dying without a Will. Instead, Texas law dictates how the assets of someone dying without a Will are divided upon their death. If you die without a Will, you …

Dying Without a Will in Texas: What Happens?

Part 2 By Jason Brower Question: “Is it true that the state gets everything if I die without a Will?” Four basic scenarios illustrate the division of separate property upon someone’s death. In the first and most common scenario, a person dies with a spouse and children. In such case, the surviving spouse takes one-third of the personal property, (non land assets) and the remaining two-thirds of the personal property is divided equally among the child or children of the …

Dying Without a Will in Texas: What Happens? Part I

Part 1 By Jason Brower Question: “Is it true that the state gets everything if I die without a Will?” Concerned clients routinely ask this question expressing their concern in keeping the State from taking their hard-earned estate upon their deaths. Fortunately, the State does not take the property of someone dying without a Will. Instead, Texas law dictates how the assets of someone dying without a Will are divided upon their death. If you die without a Will, you …

Challenging Challenges, Pt. 2

In a previous post, I began discussing some of the fact and evidence challenges in Will contests from the challenger’s perspective. Recall that I boiled down will contests to three basic varieties of complaints: (1) complaints about the technical execution of the document, (2) complaints about the conduct of the person making the Will, and (3) complaints about the conduct of some third-party. Last time, I outlined some of the traditional fact scenarios in a contest of the first type. …

Challenging Challenges

With tax season looming over everyone’s heads, perhaps we could use a distraction and turn our attention to the other inevitability that Benjamin Franklin mentioned more than 200 years ago – death. But let’s not be morbid about it and dwell on our own mortality. Instead, I thought it might be more fitting to talk about how even the best laid plans for our personal reckoning can be questioned and challenged by our friends, families and loved ones. More often …