Can a murderer inherit his victim’s property?

Can a murderer inherit his victim’s property?

Texas Slayer Rule

Affirmative Action Required

The Texas State Constitution has a provision that says “”No conviction shall work corruption of blood, or forfeiture of estate.” The Texas Estates Code §201.058 (Probate Code §41(d)) is similar. Those two provisions have been interpreted to allow a murderer to inherit from his victim. However, the courts have allowed the heirs of the victim to file suit against the murderer and to impose a constructive trust on any property he might receive from the victim. The practical effect of the constructive trust is to deny the murderer the inheritance from the victim.

If the heirs of the victim do nothing, the murderer receives his inheritance. If the heirs of the victim file suit in court, the courts will impose a constructive trust on the inheritance which effectively denies the inheritance to the murderer.

Insurance policies are different. The murderer does not inherit the proceeds from an insurance policy since there is a special statute that deals with insurance policies. That statute denies payment of the proceeds to the person who causes the death of the insured.

See another article on the this topic including the “Slayer’s Rule.”

PEARLS OF WISDOM: If someone is ever in a position where the Texas slayer rule is involved and a murderer is going to profit from his misdeed, affirmative action is required to prevent the murderer from inheriting the victim’s property. Compare 287 S.W.2d 546 with 68 S.W.3d 242.

Podcast “DNA – I found my dad, do I inherit his estate?”

Podcast “DNA – I found my dad, do I inherit his estate?”

Podcast added!

The topic is “DNA – I found my dad, do I inherit his estate?”

You ordered a DNA test kit. When your received your results, you found out that your father was someone you did not know or did not know they were your father. Do you inherit his estate? We will discuss those issues in a Texas context.
I am Robert Ray, a Texas attorney who handles litigation involving inheritance disputes. I am Board Certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in Personal Injury Trial Law. My principal office is in Lantana, Texas, in the Dallas/Fort Worth area but I handle cases all over Texas.
I produce these Podcasts to briefly discuss current topics about Texas inheritance issues. You can find more information about Texas inheritance issues on this website or on my blog above.

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Oral Statements by the Testator about a Texas Will

When a person tells someone how he wants his property handled when he dies but he has a written will or trust, the oral statements will not change how his property is handled if the will or trust is unambiguous.

Problem

Someone testifies in a Texas will or trust contest that the testator told them how he wanted his property distributed. The will or trust of the testator specifies a different way to distribute the property. What effect do the testator’s statements have on the Texas will or trust?

Facts

In her lawsuit, Blanca alleged that when Frank decided to sell the Ranch, he told family members they would be given an opportunity to match any offer he received.

Blanca filed the underlying lawsuit seeking a temporary restraining order and injunction to prevent Frank from conveying the (property based on the statements by the testator).

The court had to decide if or how this evidence should be treated.

ESTATE OF RODRIGUEZ, 04-17-00005-CV, (Tex. App. – San Antonio January 10, 2018)

Trust versus Will in Texas

Since this case dealt with a trust, the court stated the Texas’ rules for construing trusts.

The same rules of construction apply to both wills and trusts. The construction of an unambiguous trust instrument is a question of law for the trial court.

An appellate court may not focus its attention on what the testator intended to write, but on the meaning of the words he actually used.  That is, we must not redraft a trust instrument to vary or add provisions under the guise of construction of the language of the trust to reach a presumed intent. No speculation or conjecture regarding the intent of the testatrix is permissible where, as here, the will is unambiguous, and we must construe the will based on the express language used therein.

This court must harmonize all terms to give proper effect to each part of the instrument; in construing the instrument, we must give effect to all provisions and ensure that no provisions are rendered meaningless.  Provided the language of the instrument unambiguously expresses the settlor’s intent, there is no need to construe the instrument because “it speaks for itself.”

What are the rules for construing a trust in Texas?

ESTATE OF RODRIGUEZ, 04-17-00005-CV, (Tex. App. – San Antonio January 10, 2018)

Ruling

Based on the facts of the case and applying Texas law, the court found that the trust stated how the property was to be handled and that any statements by the Testator to the contrary were to be disregarded.

Notes

There are some Texas cases where a will or trust was ambiguous and statements by the Testator were used to determine what he meant. In this case, the trust was not ambiguous.

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Oral Statements by the Testator about a Texas Will

Does A Texas Will That Says “all other things owned by me…” Include Everything Owed By The Testator

 

The will

In a recent Texas inheritance dispute out of the Fort Worth Court of Appeals, In the Estate of Larry Ronald Neal, Deceased, No. 02-16-00381-CV, (Tex. App. –Fort Worth, Delivered: November 9, 2017), the question was what did the testator mean in his will. The will stated that the beneficiary (a niece) would receive “all my personal effects and all my tangible personal property, including automobiles, hangars, aircraft, fly-drive vehicles, patents, companies, and all other things owned by me at the time of my death, including cash on hand in bank accounts in my own name, or companies[`] names, or securities, or other intangibles.”

The dispute

The testator’s children asked the court to declare that he died intestate as to his real property since it was not mentioned in the will. The niece claimed that the phrase “and all other things owned by me at the time of my death” was meant to include the real estate. (more…)

What Happens When You File An Inheritance Dispute In The Wrong Texas Court

Filing an inheritance dispute in the wrong Texas court can be fatal to your claim!

Facts

A recent court of appeals decision illustrates what happens when you file an inheritance dispute in the Wrong Texas Court. An elderly Texas man had nine children. In the last few years of his life, one of his children gained control of the man. She obtained a power of (more…)

Can You Probate An Invalid Will In Texas

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Invalid wills can be admitted to probate if not contested

The idea to take away from the case discussed in this article and similar cases is that this will had been admitted to probate. If the family had not contested it, the “friend” would have taken all the estate. Even invalid wills sometimes get admitted to probate as this one did. So to the question of “Can you probate an invalid will in Texas?” The answer is yes if the proper beneficiaries don’t take action quickly to contest the will.

Recent Case

In The Estate of Romo (not that Romo), the El Paso Court of Appeals ruled on a will contest case. The will had been filed by the testator’s “friend” and the judge admitted it to probate. It left the testator’s estate to the friend. Several months after the will had been admitted to probate, a will contest was filed by the testator’s family. The family offered a prior will that left all to the family. The will contest was filed because, allegedly, the testator did not have the mental capacity to make the new will and he was (more…)

Contesting a will in Texas

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