Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Texas

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The Supreme Court overruled its decision in Faris v. Faris, 138 S.W.2d 830, 832 (Tex. App. 1940) ruling that a devisee's default is imputed to his own devisee, even where the latter is not in default, holding that Texas Estates Code 256.003(a) holding that the applicant for the probate of the will is in default in failing to timely probate the will. Linda Ferreira, in her capacity as executor of her ex-husband Norman's estate, offered the will of Patricia Hill, whom Norman subsequently married, for probate nine years after Patricia's death. Douglas and Debra Butler, Patricia's intestate heirs, contested the probate of the will on the ground that it was barred by the four-year limitations period in section 256.003(a). The trial court granted summary judgment for the Butlers. The court of appeals affirmed, holding (1) Norman's default in probating Patricia's will applied to Linda, and (2) even if Linda had applied to probate the will in her individual capacity as a devisee of a devisee, Norman's default would bar her application under Faris. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that, under section 256.003(a), when an applicant seeks late probate of a will in her individual capacity, only the applicant's conduct is relevant to determining whether she was not in default. View "Ferreira v. Butler" on Justia Law

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In this dispute in probate over title to property bequeathed in a will, the Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the order of the trial court ruling that governmental immunity barred an heir’s suit against a county, holding that, contrary to the court of appeals’ decision, Texas A&M University-Kingsville v. Lawson, 87 S.W.3d 518 (Tex. 2002), applied in this case. The decedent’s heirs and the county, one of the beneficiaries under the will, agreed to combine forces against the other beneficiary, a private university, during litigation over the properly bequeathed in the will. The county and heirs agreed to share equally in any recovery either of them obtained in the proceedings. The university subsequently settled, and the settlement was divided between the county and the heirs under their agreement. Later, an heir sued the county alleging a breach of the agreement. The county asserted that governmental immunity barred the heir’s suit. The trial court and court of appeals agreed. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded, holding that Lawson, which provides that a governmental entity cannot create immunity for itself by settling a claim for which it lacks immunity only to assert immunity from suit in a subsequent action to enforce the government’s agreement, applied. View "Hughes v. Green County" on Justia Law

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There is no cause of action in Texas for intentional interference with an inheritance. Richard Archer and Richard’s six children (the Archers) brought this action against Ted Anderson’s estate for intentional interference with their inheritance, alleging that Anderson influenced Jack Archer to disinherit them. The jury found in favor of the Archers. On appeal, the court of appeals concluded that the Supreme Court has never recognized tortious interference with inheritance as a cause of action in Texas and deferred to the Supreme Court to decide whether to do so. The court then reversed and rendered judgment for Anderson. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the tort of interference with inheritance is not recognized in Texas. View "Archer v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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There is no cause of action in Texas for intentional interference with an inheritance. Richard Archer and Richard’s six children (the Archers) brought this action against Ted Anderson’s estate for intentional interference with their inheritance, alleging that Anderson influenced Jack Archer to disinherit them. The jury found in favor of the Archers. On appeal, the court of appeals concluded that the Supreme Court has never recognized tortious interference with inheritance as a cause of action in Texas and deferred to the Supreme Court to decide whether to do so. The court then reversed and rendered judgment for Anderson. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the tort of interference with inheritance is not recognized in Texas. View "Archer v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the trial court ruling that a will bequest of a tract of land unambiguously devised a fee-simple interest, rather than a life-estate interest, to the testator’s son, entitling the son to summary judgment. The Supreme Court reversed and rendered judgment that the will granted the son a life estate and Petitioners the remainder interest in the property at issue, holding that the contested provision unambiguously conveyed a life estate. View "Knopf v. Gray" on Justia Law

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While the Supreme Court was asked in this case to recognize tortious interference with an inheritance as a viable cause of action in Texas, the court was not persuaded to consider it because Petitioners and cross-respondents, the Kinsels, had an adequate remedy in this case. In this case involving the sale of a ranch, the Kinsels sought damages for tortious interference with their inheritances, statutory and common-law fraud, and conspiracy. The jury found for the Kinsels on every claim. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s award of damages for tortious interference with an inheritance on the basis that neither the Texas legislature nor the Supreme Court has recognized that cause of action. On appeal, the Kinsels urged the Supreme Court to recognize tortious interference with an inheritance as a cause of action and uphold their recovery. The Supreme Court upheld the judgment of the court of appeals, holding that the facts of this case did not warrant an enlargement of this state’s body of tort law, as the law provided an adequate remedy in this case - a constructive trust imposed on the disputed inheritance. View "Kinsel v. Lindsey" on Justia Law

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The nearly identical wills of Vencie Beard and Melba Beard contained a provision stating that if both the husband and wife died in a “common disaster or under circumstances making it impossible to determine [who] died first,” the testator bequeathed specified cash amounts to nine individuals. Melba died at 8:59 p.m. and Vencie died at 10:55 p.m. on the same night after Vencie shot and killed Mebla before taking his own life. The trial court determined that the Beards died in a common disaster and that the Simultaneous Death Act (SDA) was incorporated into the Beards’ wills. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Beards’ deaths did not trigger the common-disaster provisions in their wills. View "Stephens v. Beard" on Justia Law

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More than fifty years ago, various real-property interests were distributed to three children under their mother’s will. Heirs of the original devisees argued over the proper construction of the will provisions and the quantum of royalty bequeathed to each sibling. At issue was whether double-fraction language in the will fixed the siblings’ devised royalty at 1/24 - allowing the fee owner the exclusive benefit of any negotiated royalty exceeding 1/8 - or whether the testatrix intended the devisees to share equally in all future royalties. The trial court rendered judgment that the testatrix’s will entitled each child to 1/3 of any and all royalty interest on all the devised land tracts. The court of appeals reversed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, after considering the will in its entirety, the testatrix intended her children to share future royalties equally, bequeathing to each child a 1/3 floating royalty, not a 1/24 fixed royalty. View "Hysaw v. Dawkins" on Justia Law

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Lorene and Harley Walter owned a certificate of deposit account with Bank of America. The account was a survivorship account and a payable-on-death account. After Harley died and while Lorene was still alive, the Bank distributed the funds in the account to Dwight Eisenhauer and Jo Ann Day, the named beneficiaries on the account, in equal sums. The Bank violated its deposit agreement with the Walters in doing so because these payments were made before Harley’s death. Eisenhauer, using his power of attorney, deposited his check into an account in Lorene’s name, making himself beneficiary upon her death. After Lorene died, Eisenhauer, as the independent executor of Lorene’s estate, sued the Bank for breach of the deposit agreement. The jury found that the Bank had failed to comply with the agreement but that the estate suffered no damages. The trial court subsequently granted judgment for Eisenhauer notwithstanding the jury’s verdict and rendered judgment for the amount that had been distributed to Day, plus interest, costs, and attorney fees. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the trial court erred in granting judgment notwithstanding the verdict to Eisenhauer, as the evidence supported the jury’s finding that the estate suffered no damages. View "Bank of America, N.A. v. Eisenhauer" on Justia Law