Will Contests

Will contests make up a large part of our practice. Any person who has an interest in or appears to have an interest in an estate can contest a will. There are various reasons why someone would challenge a loved one’s will. Typically, we see complaints of improper execution, testator incapacity, duress, fraud, or undue influence.

For a will to be valid, a testator, the creator of the will, must have testamentary capacity. Testamentary capacity means, among other things, that testators know the extent of their property, that they want to make a will, who their heirs are, and what they want to do with their property. They must be able to consider all of these factors at the same time, understand the relationship between each, and make a reasonable judgment as to these elements

A person can contest a will up to two years after the will is admitted to probate, with some exceptions that allow one to contest more than two years after. But one can also file a contest before the will is probated – meaning, after a will is filed but before the court has found it to be valid. The timing is often a critical factor which should be considered quickly.

Removing Executors and Administrators

Removal of an executor or administrator is typically based on a breach of fiduciary duty or a conflict. Executors and administrators owe the beneficiaries or heirs a high standard of care which usually include: giving a full accounting, fully disclosing all necessary information, and a duty of loyalty. Beneficiaries can also seek removal for mismanaging the estate or self dealing.

Determining Heirship

If a relative dies without a will, there are procedures that one can take to determine the proper heirs. Texas has a set distribution pattern that dictates who inherits when there is no will.  Typically, the standard begins with a spouse and children, but varies depending on whether property is community or separate and real or personal. This standard is called intestate succession, and dictates how an estate will pass if no will is probated

Fees

Estate litigation cases allow for an hourly fee or, depending on the circumstances, a contingent fee.  A contingency fee is not appropriate in all situations.  When we evaluate your case, we will consider the unique circumstances of your case and discuss whether a contingency fee is an option.