Filing an inheritance dispute in the wrong Texas court can be fatal to your claim!
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…)
A power of attorney in Texas creates a fiduciary duty between the person who holds the power (agent) and the person who gives it (principal.) The agent owes his principal a high duty of good faith, fair dealing, honest performance, and strict accountability. A 2015 case out of Fort Worth dealt with the issue of breaching a fiduciary duty in Texas.
A man (agent) had his aunt (principal) give him a power of attorney. About a year before the aunt died, the nephew executed deeds to the aunt’s real estate to himself and his son. After the aunt died, a probate was filed. When the beneficiaries of the aunt found out about the deeds, they were understandably upset.
Family Settlement Agreement
Apparently, most of the beneficiaries did not have the money to sue the agent so they entered into a family settlement agreementto give one of the beneficiaries the right to sue the agent for breaching a fiduciary duty in Texas. Suit was filed and (more…)
Undue influence is one of the harder things to provein 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.
In 2005 the Texarkana Court of Appeals was asked that question. An elderly couple who became concerned about their future health and living care needs made two of their children signatories on their bank account. Over time, the mother died and a daughter was able to get sole control of the funds. She refused to give her father access to the account. The father filed suit. The daughter responded to the suit by saying that after the mother had died her brother started making large withdrawals from the fund. To protect the money, the daughter took the money out of the account and opened a new account where she was the only signatory. Her position was that the parents had orally created a trust when they put her on the account originally and she was just following the dictates of the trust. She also claimed that once her mother had died, the trust became irrevocable and her father could not revoke it. The trial court agreed with the daughter and held that the parents had created an oral trust when they put the daughter on the account and she had every right to protect their interest by taking the money out of that account and putting it in another one where she was the sole signatory on the account. The father appealed.
The appeals court reversed. They explained that a trust must be in writing. There are some exceptions to that rule but none of those exceptions were present in this case. Since there was no trust, the funds belonged to the father and not to the alleged trust. The court also held that if any trust was created, it was a revocable trust and the father could and did revoked the alleged trust by filing suit. The trial court was reversed and the appeals court sent the case back to the trial court to determine how much attorney’s fees should be awarded against the daughter. 167 sw3 924.
Copyright by Robert Ray a Texas inheritance attorney. The foregoing information is general in nature and does not apply to every fact situation. If you are concerned about inheritance laws, inheritance rights, have a family inheritance dispute, a property dispute or want information about contesting a will and need an inheritance lawyer, we can help. Please go to our main site www.texasinheritance.com and use the contact form to contact us today. We are Texas inheritance lawyers and would love to learn about your case and there is no fee for the initial consultation.
The principal is the person who gives the power of attorney. The agent or attorney-in-fact is the person to whom the power is given e.g. the holder of the power of attorney.
Can a holder of a Texas power of attorney create a trust using the principal’s money? In Texas, the answer is no, he cannot. The law dealing with trust requires that, in order to create a trust, the person who creates the trust, the settlor (the principal in this case,) must have the requisite intent to create a trust. A trust can be created “only if the settlor manifests an intention to create a trust.”
The statute that defines the powers held by an attorney-in-fact provides that if the principal has created a trust prior to his giving a power of attorney, the agent is authorized to transfer the principal’s property to that trust. The court’s have interpreted that section as denying the attorney-in-fact the right to create the trust for the principal but only to add to one already created by the principal himself. Thus, if the principal has created a trust and then gives someone a power of attorney, the attorney-in-fact can take the principal’s money and property and put it into the trust that the principal created. 230 3d 197, 170 3d 777.
In 2017, the Texas legislature added §751.031(b)(1) to the Estates Code. That section provides that an agent has the power to take certain actions if specifically authorized to do so in the POA such as to “create, amend, revoke, or terminate an inter vivos trust.” So, if the power of attorney states that the attorney-in-fact can create a trust, he can. The cases cited above would be overruled when he is granted those powers in the instrument. Most powers of attorneys don’t state that the attorney-in-fact can created trusts so the cases above are still good when the power of attorney is silent on the issue.
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By Robert Ray a Board Certified attorney. The foregoing information is general in nature and does not apply to every fact situation. We handle litigation involving inheritance disputes. We don’t prepare wills. We don’t file wills for probate or distribute estates except when we are contesting a will or protecting a will from a contest. We handle a select few cases on contingency. Don’t use a comment to ask a personal question about an inheritance issue because your name and comment will be public. To ask a litigation question and to protect your privacy, click the redbutton to the right.