Is A Will Voidable Because of Public Policy

Robert Ray

Background

In 2016, the Texas court of appeals in Austin had to decide if a will was voidable because of public policy. The testator had one child, a girl. Two days before he died, he executed a new will that disinherited his daughter. The daughter contested the will. Her principal theory was that her disinheritance by her father violated ” public policy” –namely Texas’s strong public policy against sexual abuse of children. As her basis for that theory, she alleged that her father had abused her sexually while she was a teenager and had disinherited her after she confronted him with those allegations decades later.

Is A Will Voidable Because of Public Policy

Texas courts have voided wills or provisions in wills based on public policy. Those cases might involve restrictions on marrying someone of a different race, placing restrictions on the acts of a guardian appointed by the court who also happens to be a beneficiary or similar provisions.

Ruling by the Court

In this case, the court held that there was no basis for voiding a will based on public policy. The court said:

the Legislature has not seen fit either to require testators in (father’s) alleged position either to provide an inheritance for their victim or to proscribe them from disinheriting the victim. The closest the Legislature has come is to authorize probate courts to bar a parent from inheriting from a child (the reverse of the situation here) who dies intestate (whereas here there is a will) where the parent has been convicted or placed on community supervision for certain crimes against that child, including sexual offenses (and no such criminal charges or dispositions occurred here). In the very least, we can say with certainty that the Legislature has not seen fit–at least as of yet–to authorize, let alone require, the recovery (daughter) seeks.

Summary

While a Texas will might be set aside based on public policy, it is very difficult and the contestant must allege a basis in a statute or in prior cases. A Texas citizen who is a person of sound mind has a perfect legal right to dispose of his property as he wishes and the courts will uphold that right even if the right is unjust.

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The Author

Robert Ray

Robert Ray handles inheritance disputes of all kinds. He takes cases throughout Texas.
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