Find Out Who is an Interested Party for Probate Purposes?

Find Out Who is an Interested Party for Probate Purposes?

The Texas Probate Code defines “interested persons,” in relevant part, to be: children, heirs, devisees, spouses, creditors, or any others having a property right in, or claim against, the estate being administered . . .” In order to contest a will, you must be an “interested party.”

The interest referred to must be a pecuniary one, held by the party either as an individual or in a representative capacity, which will be affected by the probate or defeat of the will. That means you must have a financial interest. An interest resting on sentiment or sympathy, or any other basis other than gain or loss of money or its equivalent, is insufficient. For instance, if you are a neighbor and you see that an undeserving child seems to be ending up with all of the property of their parents or grandparents, there’s nothing that you can do because your interest is not pecuniary. It is just altruistic. The only thing that you can do is to notify an interested party of your concerns. If they are not interested in contesting the will, there’s nothing else for you to do.

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Robert Ray is the Editor and owner of this site. Board Certified, Personal Injury Trial Law — Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

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Contesting a will with a no contest clause.

Contesting a will with a no contest clause.

 

 

 

Most wills have a no-contest clause in them. These no contest clauses are also called in terrorem clauses. I have described these here. Many people ask if these no contest clauses mean that they can’t contest a will. The answer to that question is no.

Courts are reluctant to enforce these clauses because of the chilling effect they have on legitimate claims that the will being contested is not the will of the testator. Imagine a situation where a person has gained undue influence over the testator who then makes a will leaving little to his family and benefiting the person exerting the undue influence. If the family receives anything under the will, they will be afraid that they will lose what little they have if they contest the will. It’s for this reason that courts are reluctant to enforce these clauses. The legislature also passed a law making these provisions void if the person contesting the will did so in good faith and with just cause. Under that law, even if a contestant loses the will contest, he won’t be denied his inheritance set out in the unsuccessfully challenged will if the court or jury finds he was contesting the will in good faith and with just cause. Of course, if someone is contesting a will without good faith and just cause, the courts may enforce the no-contest clause. There are very few cases where the courts have enforced these provisions although there are some.

You can find more information here.

I have created a podcast about no-contest clauses in a will. You can find it here.

Do You Legally Know What Your Attorney Knows?

Introduction

An attorney is an agent for the person (principal) that he represents. Agency law imputes the knowledge of the agent to the principal. If an agent knows something, the law says that the principal knows it as well.

Facts

An interesting case out of Ohio had the question of do you legally know what your attorney knows come up in relation to a will contest. In Ohio, (more…)

Relationship Poisoning And Undue Influence

History of Undue Influence

Undue influence is one of the harder things to prove in an inheritance dispute. The doctrine of undue influence derives from English courts.  A will contest heard by Sir Francis Bacon as the Lord Chancellor of England in 1617 illustrates common aspects of the process of undue influence which emerged in the context of a will contest.  These aspects include frail health, physical dependency, false affection, relationship poisoning, threats and mistreatment, and involvement in the execution of documents by and in favor of the alleged abuser.

Relationship poisoning and undue influence.

What is relationship poisoning in the context of a will contest? A Texas court held that when a person makes negative remarks about a person’s children and reinterprets historical events in a negative manner, the jury can consider these acts as relationship poisoning. Based on the relationship poisoning, the jury can find undue influence  and the verdict will be upheld. 340 SW 3d 769. While relationship poisoning alone may or may not be sufficient proof of undue influence, if it has occurred it needs to be brought to the attention of the court because it will assist the court in determining if undue influence has occurred.

Undue Influence in Texas

Contesting a Will Because of Undue Influence

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