When Can a Texas judge change or reform a will

Robert Ray
Contesting a will in Texas

When can a Texas judge reform a will?

The Texas Estates Code, 255.451, says a Texas judge can reform a will or modified it in certain circumstances. The same is true of a trust. Prop. C. 112.054. In a 2019 case, 06-19-00014-CV, a trust was modified by the trial court. The appeals court reversed the modificaiton.

Facts

A man and woman were married. 06-19-00014-CV. The wife had a child, Edna. The husband adopted Edna. Thereafter, they had two children between them, Ignacio and Esperanza. At some point, they created a trust.

The first Trust article, labelled “Identification,” read, “The Grantors have two children, their daughter, ESPERANZA GONZALES and son IGNACIO G. GONZALES, JR. All references in this Declaration of Trust to the `Grantors’ children’ are to them. The term “children” was never used again. The trust only used the term “descendants” after that. Edna’s name was not in the trust.

There was one blank in the document that said “all of the remaining trust property shall be distributed to the Grantors’ [_____].” Ignacio and Esperanza asked the trial judge to reform the will and fill in the blank with “children.” Edna opposed that and wanted the blank to be filled in with the term “descendants” that was used in all the provisions that disposed of property. The trial court reformed the trust by inserting “children.” Edna appealed.

Ruling

The appeals court reversed. It discussed the law about the ability of a Texas judge’s ability to reform a will or a trust based on a scrivener’s error (a mistake made by the attorney preparing the document as opposed to a mistake by the clients.) They noted that the person seeking the reformation had a high burden. A clear and convincing burden of proof which Ignacio and Esperanza did not meet.

The court agreed that there was a scrivener’s error but it could have been leaving Edna out of the Identification paragraph as well as not filing in the blank. They sent the case back to have these issues tried by a jury.

What should you know

A Texas judge can reform a will. If there is a will or trust that has errors in it, a court can correct those errors in certain circumstances.

UPDATES

There are new cases all the time that clarify or change the law on inheritance disputes. Keep up-to-date by subscribing to our blog.

'

Subscribe

Recent Posts

Difference between annulment and divorce in Texas

Difference between annulment and divorce in Texas

What is the difference between annulment and divorce? A divorce is a court order that ends a marriage. An annulment is a court order that the marriage never existed. An annulment can only be ordered based on limited circumstances like fraud, duress, or force as well...

Precatory words in a Texas will

Precatory words in a Texas will

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...

What can go wrong if you represent yourself – part 2

What can go wrong if you represent yourself – part 2

Representing yourself in court I have written before about what can go wrong when representing yourself in court. Look at this post and this one. The law refers to you as a pro se litigant. Many people ask about representing themselves in court. They also want to know...

How bad people use undue influence

How bad people use undue influence

This article is about ways that people exert undue influence in Texas to obtain the property or estate of others. Undue influence can take many forms. In a 2020 Texas case, Buford, a man with a below average IQ hired a private investigator, Tait, whose name he found...

INHERITANCE RIGHTS IN TEXAS—HOW TO OBTAIN THEM

Background Heirship proceeding are different from will contest. This article deals with getting property that is yours based on an inheritance. This may occur where a person dies without a will. It can also occur where there is a will but the will leaves property to...

Challenging a Joint Account

Background When a person dies, his will determines who gets his property. If he doesn't have a will, then the law of descent and distribution determines who gets his property. Pay on Death (POD) and joint accounts with right of survivorship are different. Financial...

The Author

Robert Ray

Robert Ray handles inheritance disputes of all kinds. He takes cases throughout Texas.
© Copyright 2022 | All Rights Reserved.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This