No Forced Heirship In Texas

No Forced Heirship In Texas

Forced Heirship in Texas?

Forced heirship is a concept that provides that all of your children have a right to a portion of your estate upon your death. In other words, each of your children must get part of your estate. There are limited circumstances under which a child can be disinherited. Absent one of these circumstances, if you do not provide a child with his or her forced portion, he or she can sue to claim it. The idea comes from Roman and French Civil Law but is not part of the common law of England. All states follow the Common Law of England rather than the Civil Law of Europe except for Louisiana. Louisiana has forced heirship, the other states generally do not have it.

No Texas Forced Heirship.

Texas was part of Mexico before its independence. Mexico’s law is based on the Civil Law of Europe.  Because Mexico had forced heirship, it was part of Texas law at the time of Texas’ independence. It remained part of Texas law for only a short time. Texas repealed forced heirship in 1856. As a result, a Texas will can leave property to a child or not leave property to a child. There is no law that requires a person in Texas to leave property to a child, a spouse or anyone else. There is complete freedom to leave property to anyone regardless of their relationship to the maker of a will.

If you want to read an in depth discussion on forced heirship in Texas and Louisiana, there is an excellent discussion titled The Early Sources of Forced Heirship; Its History in Texas and Louisiana, 4  Louisiana Law Review 1941.

Pretermitted Children and Spouses.

Note that forced heirship is different from the concept of pretermitted children and spouses. Pretermitted children are those children born after a will is executed and not otherwise provided for by the decedent. The law treats these children as forgotten children and they inherit as if there was no will. Texas doesn’t recognize pretermitted spouses but some states do. The same principles apply as apply to pretermitted children. I have written about pretermitted children here and here. I have written about pretermitted spouses here and here.

Listen to this Podcast on pretermitted children:

Are Arbitration Provisions of a Will Enforceable?

I have written previously that arbitration clauses in trust are enforceable against the beneficiaries. Normally, arbitration clauses are not enforceable against someone unless they agreed to be bound by arbitration. In the trust context, the Supreme Court has held that if a trust contains an arbitration clause and you receive benefits from the trust, you are agreeing to the arbitration clause. This is called direct-benefits estoppel. I said in that article that the same rule would probably apply to an arbitration clause in a will. Well, there is a case now involving an arbitration clause in a will.

In the will case, the Testator’s will contained a provision requiring arbitration of all disputes. 14-18-00003-CV. The Successor Administrator sued the Former Executor for several alleged breaches of fiduciary duty. Former Executor moved to compel arbitration. The trial court denied the motion and Former Executor appealed.

The appeals court also denied arbitration. They said that direct-benefits estoppel did not apply because the Former Executor did not receive benefits. The Former Executor claimed that the fees that the he received were benefits under the will so the arbitration clause required arbitration. The court explained that Successor Administrator’s claims are not based on allegations that Former Executor violated the terms of the will. Instead, the breach of fiduciary duty claims against Former Executor were derived from statutes and common law, irrespective of the will itself. In addition, Successor Administrator’s entitlement to fees is based on Texas Estates Code § 352.051, not the will.

So, the implication is that arbitration clauses in wills are enforceable under the right circumstances.

Note: A 2019 case denied an interlocutory appeal of an order to arbitrate. A party sued a trust company for inappropriately distributing funds. The trust company demanded arbitration which the trial court ordered. The party that did no want arbitration attempted an interlocutory appeal. The appeals court denied the appeal saying that only orders denying arbitration are subject to interlocutory appeals, not orders granting arbitration.  11-19-00017-CV.

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…)

Is A Will Voidable Because of Public Policy

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 (more…)

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