Presumption of Undue Influence

Presumption of Undue Influence

Presumption of Undue Influence

A person who is an Executor, Administrator, Trustee, or who has a Power of Attorney is a fiduciary. A fiduciary must act in the best interest of the beneficiaries and show that each of his actions was in the beneficiaries’ best interest. When an action benefits the fiduciary in any way, there is a presumption of unfairness, and the fiduciary may be liable.

David Johnson, an attorney who writes on fiduciary litigation, has an article that addresses the case of In re Estate of Klutts, 02-18-00356-CV, (Tex. App.—Fort Worth December 19, 2019, no pet. history). In Klutts, a son who had a power of attorney helped his mother prepare a new will which benefited the son. When the mother died, he attempted to probate the new will. However, his siblings contested the will. The son asked the court to dismiss the contest because his siblings had no evidence that he unduly influenced his mother. The trial court agreed with the son and rejected the will contest. On appeal, the appeals court reversed.

The appeals court held that because he had a power of attorney, the son had to overcome the presumption of undue influence. Thus, the burden was not on the siblings to prove undue influence but on the son to disprove it.

Tax Foreclosure in Texas

Tax Foreclosure in Texas

Taxing authorities can foreclose on your real property when you don’t pay your taxes. By statute, an owner may redeem real property purchased at a tax sale by paying certain amounts within a prescribed period of time after the purchaser’s deed is recorded. What does a tax foreclosure in Texas have to do with an inheritance? Read on and find out.

Inheritance and foreclosure

Let’s say an elderly relative doesn’t keep up with their bills. Tax payments can be missed or forgotten. A relative may need to be put in a nursing home, and while there, no one pays the taxes. The relatives may not know that a tax foreclosure happens in each situation. This can happen even with a property that is the person’s homestead. Depending on the facts, the heirs of the deceased relative may be able to redeem the property after the death of the decedent.

A situation like the above happened when an elderly man could not care for himself. 593sw3d167. His mother-in-law, Barton, asked her daughter, Karen, to quit her job to take care of him. When the man died, Karen was appointed administrator of his estate. Before he died, several taxing authorities foreclosed on his three-acre tract valued at $217,00 and, after his death, sold it at a foreclosure sale for $68,000. The land was the only asset of his estate.

Karen died shortly after the man, and Barton was appointed successor administrator of his estate. She then began the process of redeeming the property back into the estate. Barton was successful in redeeming the property.

Takeaway

The takeaway from this post is that a tax foreclosure in Texas is not as final as one might think. If you meet the criteria set out in the statute, you may be able to redeem the property after it is sold even if you are not the original owner and may only be an heir.

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…)

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