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Texas Supreme Court Rules in Favor of BoyarMiller Client; Overturns 80-Year-Old Case Law for Probate Applicants

April 24, 2019

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HOUSTON (April 23, 2019) – The Supreme Court of Texas delivered an opinion April 12 that changed the interpretation of a Texas law that has existed since 1879 stating that an applicant for probate is charged with the failure of any predecessor to probate a will before them.

Chief Justice Nathan Hecht delivered the opinion citing that the “applicant” for probate should not be assessed the penalty of a default for failing to present a will for probate within four years just because a prior party failed to do so. As the Court noted, each applicant must be judged by their own circumstances.

“The Texas Supreme Court agreed that our client was an applicant in the probate because she inherited from a decedent’s estate, and in that role, a previous party’s default would not be applied to her,” said Christopher Burt, BoyarMiller senior associate, who delivered oral arguments last December in Linda Ferreira, Petitioner v. Douglas W. Butler and Debra L. Butler, Respondents.

“The court overturned the Fourteenth Court of Appeals and our client will now be able to probate the will that honors the intent of two deceased individuals,” said Burt. “We are so pleased with the Court’s ruling and the opportunity for our client to move forward in accordance with the intentions of the testators in this case.”

In the case, Ferreira was the executor and beneficiary of an estate that included an inheritance from a will that had not been probated. Although it was nine years after the death of the testator, the will was only in Ferreira’s possession for one month. The case centered on whether Ferreira was in default for failing to present the will when a previous testator did not probate within the allotted timeframe.

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 applicant for the probate of the will, individually, was in default.

“Clearly, this is a victory for our client who was not in default and the ruling in the case changes the law in a way that will have a meaningful difference for Texans,” said Burt.

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