In A Texas will, When Does “I Leave The Rest To You” Mean I Don’t Leave The Rest To You?

Robert Ray

In a Texas will, the mother said this: “NOW BOBBY I leave the rest to you, everything, certificates of deposit, land, cattle and machinery, Understand the land is not to be sold but passed on down to your children, ANNETTE KNOPF, ALLISON KILWAY, AND STANLEY GRAY. TAKE CARE OF IT AND TRY TO BE HAPPY.”

Problem

The Texas Supreme Court had to construe the will. The problem language was that shown above. The question was about Bobby’s interest in the land: did Bobby own the land outright as the trial court and court of appeals had ruled or did he just own a life estate holding the property for his life but not being able to dispose of the children’s remainder interest?

Facts

After his mother died, Bobby sold the land to others. Two of his children sued Bobby and the others. They sought a declaratory judgment that Bobby could only convey a life estate in the land since the will created a life estate and not a fee simple interest. Fee simple interest means that the person owns the land for all purposes and may convey all or part of the land.

Did the will give a fee simple interest or a life estate?

Knopf v. Gray, No. 17-0262, (Tex. March 23, 2018)

Ruling

The cardinal rule of will construction is to ascertain the testator’s intent and to enforce that intent to the extent allowed by law.

Here, the parties dispute whether Allen intended to devise to Bobby a fee-simple interest in the land at issue or only a life estate. “An estate in land that is conveyed or devised is a fee simple unless the estate is limited by express words,” but the law does not require any specific words or formalities to create a life estate…(t)herefore, the words used in the will must only evidence intent to create what lawyers know as a life estate.

We need only read the provision as a whole to see a layperson’s clearly expressed intent to create what the law calls a life estate.

The Supreme Court agreed with Bobby’s children that the will only devised Bobby a life estate. Sine he only owned a life estate, that is all he could deed away. Once Bobby passed on, the land would belong to the children.

Want new articles before they get published?
Subscribe to our Awesome Blog.

In A Texas will, When Does “I Leave The Rest To You” Mean I Don’t Leave The Rest To You?

by | Jun 18, 2018 | Property | 0 comments

UPDATES

There are new cases all the time that clarify or change the law on inheritance disputes. Keep up-to-date by subscribing to our blog.

'

Subscribe

Recent Posts

The slayer rule doesn’t always apply

The slayer rule doesn’t always apply

Texas Slayer Rule Recent UK case on the Slayer Rule The Texas Slayer Rule is different from other state's and countries' rule but has procedures to accomplish the same end result. See this discussion. The Texas Slayer Rule is a rule that court's use to prevent a...

Challenging a Joint Account

Background When a person dies, his will determines who gets his property. If he doesn't have a will, then the law of descent and distribution determines who gets his property. Pay on Death (POD) and joint accounts with right of survivorship are different. Financial...

Heir property in Texas

Heir property Texas Many people in Texas refer to "heir property." What they mean is the property that goes to the heirs if there is no will. If you are concerned about heir property in Texas, you should contact us to see if we can help.People have many ways to refer...

Learn about oil & gas inheritance laws in Texas

OIL & GAS INHERITANCE Land in Texas has two parts or estates, the surface estate and the mineral estate. In states where there is a lot of activity concerning minerals, like Texas, the two estates are usually severed so that one person owns the surface and one...

The Author

Robert Ray

Robert Ray handles inheritance disputes of all kinds. He takes cases throughout Texas.
© Copyright 2022 | All Rights Reserved.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This