When litigation becomes necessary, our team works diligently to resolve the conflict so our clients can move forward with their lives. It is a responsibility we take seriously and the reward is when our clients express that we have made a meaningful difference for them.
Senior Associate Christopher Burt took a probate case to the Texas Supreme Court to help his client, who was the executor and beneficiary of an estate that included an inheritance from a will that had not been probated. The court delivered a favorable opinion for his client in furtherance of the intent of the two testators.
“Probate is the judicial process of validating a will as the last testament of the deceased and allows for transferring legal titles of property to intended beneficiaries,” said Burt. “Complex situations can arise within families, especially in today’s blended families. It is best to probate a will diligently to resolve claims and to assure that the estate is distributed the way the testator intended.”
The case involved two testators and a will that had not been probated within the allotted four-year timeframe. The central issue on appeal was whether Burt’s client was in default for failing to present the will when a previous testator did not probate it. Although it was nine years after the death of the testator, the will was only in the client’s possession for one month. The court ruled that the baseline for permitting or disallowing probate of a will after the four-year mark is whether there is proof that the interested person applying for the probate of a will, individually, is in default.
The court’s ruling changed the interpretation of a Texas law that has existed since 1940 stating that an applicant for probate is charged with the failure of any predecessor to probate a will before them.
“We don’t know why the previous testator did not probate the will, but the lesson learned is that a will should be probated to achieve a clear passage of title in accordance with a testator’s wishes,” said Burt. “Admission of a will to probate is the first step in the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased individual, resolving claims, and distributing the person’s property as they intended.”