Precatory words in a Texas will

Robert Ray

Precatory words in a Texas will

What are precatory words?

Precatory words are words that are a request or a desire. These are seen mostly in self-made wills. The problems with these words are:  do the words pass title?

Examples of precatory words

Occasionally, when someone writes a will, they will use words like “I wish that Bob gets my house” or “it is my desire that Bob gets my house.”

One will had the following language “The…stock belonging to me has been handed to Myrtle and Lyter for what I lost them in the oil deal.”

In general, none of this language in wills will pass any property. Precatory words in a Texas will just express a wish of the testator and don’t necessarily pass property. If the property is not otherwise mentioned in the will, the testator dies intestate (without a will) as to that property.

Whether language is precatory-i.e., language that requests, recommends, or expresses a desire rather than a command- or testamentary is a question of intent. 545 S.W.3d 542. Words that are precatory in their ordinary meaning will be construed as mandatory when it is evident that such was the grantor’s intent. 436 S.W.2d 234. In that case, the court considered a will and codicil and noted that when words like “desire” are used “in direct reference to the disposition of the testator’s own property and show a clear intent to make such disposition without the intervention of any act by the . . . donee, they are ordinarily regarded as imperative and testamentary rather than precatory.” Id. But precatory language is treated differently depending on whether it is directed to a beneficiary or an executor. Id. at 239-40. A wish directed to a beneficiary is generally regarded as precatory without a clear expression of intent to the contrary, while such words addressed to an executor “are more often regarded as mandatory.” Id. at 240. Using will forms found on the internet is not a good idea.

So, be precise. Don’t use niceties. Tell people how you are disposing of your property. “I give my house to Bob.” “I give my stock to Myrtle.”

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Robert Ray

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