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Wills, Trusts, and Estates
South Texas College of Law Houston
Jenkins, Helen Bishop

WILLS TRUSTS AND ESTATES JENKINS SPRING 2011
 
 
Chapter 1 – Introduction
        I.            The Pwr to Transmit Property at Death:  Justifications and Limitations
a.       The Policy of Passing Wealth at Death
                                                               i.      People have the rgt to transmit property at death in a bundle of rgts
                                                             ii.      Can’t have a taking w/o just compensation
                                                            iii.      TX has no inheritance tax on bnfcrys
b.      The rgt to inherit is not a natural rgt so you can disinherit everyone.
c.       A person may not use a deceased individual’s name, voice, signature, photo, or likeness in any matter including merchandizing for the purpose of selling or purchasing. However, after 50 years a person’s likeness is fair game and can be used by anyone.
d.      The Problem of the Dead Hand (aka – Restraints on Bnfcry)
                                                               i.      The ability to control the disposition of your property after you’re dead
1.       Ex: Put stipulation on someone’s inheritance of your property
                                                             ii.      Restraints on Marriage
1.       Total Restraints on marriage are unenforceable!
a.       It unreasonably limits one’s ability to marry
                                                                                                                                       i.      Ex: Father wants daughter to marry a member of Society of Friends, but there are only 5 or 6 members.
                                                                                                                                     ii.      Ex: Son engaged to a catholic girl and father says can only marry Jewish
b.      If found to be unrsnble, we just read the will w/o that condition
2.       Partial restraints ok if rsnble and don’t unreasonably limit opportunity to marry
a.       Shapira v. Union Bank: Father said son won’t get money unless marries Jewish
                                                                                                                                       i.      This was ok because it was a partial restraint on marriage and his intent to preserve the Jewish faith was rsnble
                                                            iii.      Can’t Disrupt Family Relationships
1.       Saying someone has to divorce their spouse – Unrsnble
2.       Only providing until surviving spouse remarries is no unrsnble b/c whole purpose was to support them and if they remarry then don’t need it
                                                           iv.      Property Destruction Orders under the Will
1.       The Crt will:
a.       Weigh social utility of destruction against loss to society of valuable resource
b.      Weigh motivation of T
2.       Sometimes people will that their own personal property be destroyed
a.       Ex: Supreme Crt Justice’s notes, Kafka’s diaries, etc.
b.      Cts probably will not destroy if societal value determined to be too high
c.       So, if you want them destroyed, have a bonfire before you die!
                                                             v.      Incentive trusts – gifts under the will and the condition initiates at the time the will is drafted
1.       Divided into 3 categories:
a.       Moral – imposing moral obligations on beneficiary affecting the way they live
b.      Encouragement to live life productively
c.       Education
      II.            The Probate Process: Transfer of the Decedent’s Estate
a.       Probate v.  Non-Probate Property
                                                               i.      Probate Property
1.       Property that passes under the will or is distributed through intestacy
2.       Probate is simply the process of a crt validating the will!
                                                             ii.      Non-Probate Property
1.       Passes outside the will through an instrument not under the will
2.       Ex: Joint Tenancy, Life Insurance, Payable-On-Death K, Interests in Trust, etc.
b.      Administration of Probate Estates
                                                               i.      3 Functions of Probate
1.       Provides evidence of transfer of title to new owners (file a probate record)
2.       Protects Creditors
3.       Distributes Decedent's Property
                                                             ii.      Probate Terminology
1.       Will is a written document which describes how property is disposed of at the moment of a person's death.
a.       If no will then in TX is passes under the laws of decent and distribution
b.      Holographic Will – **Wholly in the testator's handwriting**
2.       Testator – Person who writes the will
3.       Personal Representative – Fiduciary who oversees winding up decedent’s estate
a.       Can be an executor (if named in will by T) or an Administrator (if Crt appointed)
b.      Tasks include:
                                                                                                                                       i.      Inventory and Collection of Assets
                                                                                                                                     ii.      Mgmt & Protection of Assets during administration of decedent’s estate
                                                                                                                                    iii.      Receipt and Pymt of Debts
                                                                                                                                   iv.      Distribution of Remaining Assets
4.       Codicil – Instrument modifying or adding to an existing will
5.       Independent Executorship – Acts free of ct control when executing the will
6.       Dependent Administration – Must administer estate under ct supervision (EXPENSIVE)
                                                            iii.      TX General Provisions for Probate:
1.       Proceedings Before Death – §72: 
a.       Probate or administration of estate of living person is VOID
                                                                                                                                       i.      Probate can be done for person believed to be dead but must be proven by circumstantial evidence
1.       If last seen in imminent peril then presumed dead
2.       Time Period for Probate – §73:
a.       4 Year SOL to bring will to probate
                                                                                                                                       i.      If more than 4 years passes and party can show that they weren’t at fault then can only get minument of title
3.       Venue – where decedent was domiciled at time of death
4.       Anyone who has a pecuniary interest can make application to probate
5.       Order of Persons Qualified to Serve as Executor – §77:
a.       If two people want to serve as executor, the order of priority is:
                                                                                                                                       i.      Executor named in will
                                                                                                                                     ii.      Spouse
                                                                                                                                    iii.      Primary Devisee (whoever got the most out of the estate)
                                                                                                                                   iv.      Any Devisee
                                                                                                                                     v.      Next of Kin
                                                                                                                                   vi.      Creditor
                                                                                                                                  vii.      Any person of good character residing in county who applies therefore
                                                                                                                                viii.      Any other person not disqualified
6.       Proof Required for Probate – §88:
a.       Person is deceased
b.      That 4 years hasn’t passed since their death
c.       Crt has jurisdiction and venue
                                                                                                                                       i.      Place decedent was domiciled at time of death
d.      Person applying for letters is qualified
                                                                                                                                       i.      Letters: show that person is qualified to serve and has taken an oath and filed it w/ clerk; gives executor authority to manage the estate
7.       Probating Lost will – §81(b)
a.       When we can’t find the will after date of death, there is a presumption of revocation by physical act that you must overcome.
b.      Can be done through circumstantial evidence (i.e. statements of T, will was last seen with another person, or T kept a copy of will)
c.       When the written will cannot be produced we can probate a lost will.
                                                                                                                                       i.      Application to probate lost will must state:
1.       Reasons will can’t be produced
2.       Contents of will, as far as known
3.       Date of will and executor appointed in it
                                                                                                                                     ii.      Best evidence is a photocopy of the will.
                                                                                                                                    iii.      If no copy, proponent must state in app. to probate what disposition was to best of his recollection
    III.            Professional Responsibility
a.       Duties to Intended Bnfcrys
                                                               i.       “Privity Bar” – TX (Dicky v. Jansen)
1.       Privity only applies b/w atty and client; does not extend to intended bnfcrys
2.       Note – Jenkins doesn’t like Privity Bar, b/c can’t sue a lawyer who screwed up the will!
b.      Conflicts of Interest (A v. B)
                                                               i.      TX: Would support disclosure of H’s illegitimate child to W if not knowing the information would deprive her of “substantial financial interest”
                                                             ii.      The following wills will all generally create a conflict of interest:
1.       Joint Will:  the will of two people in one document
2.       Reciprocal Wills: separate wills that mirror one another
a.       Ex: W gives to H all estate and if does not survive then to the kids and vice versa
3.       Mutual Will:  joint or reciprocal wills based on a K between the Ts
 
Chapter 2 – Intestacy: An Estate Plan by Default
        I.            The Basic Scheme
a.       Introduction
                                                               i.      State is by default the decider of what happens to your estate
                                                             ii.      Legislature attempts, through statutes, to do what avg person would want
                                                            iii.      Need to know the statute of descent and distribution in TX
1.       Have to determine whether we are dealing w/ community property or separate.
b.      Share of Surviving Spouse
                                                               i.      Doctrine of Putative Spouse
1.       When a man is married to 2 women when he dies
2.       Putative spouse (2nd W) gets same rgt in property acquired during marriage as if she were the lawful spouse if she married man in good faith he wasn’t married
a.       Most cases settle, b/c to litigate w/ such fractional interests would be misery
                                                             ii.      Sex Change Operations: NOT be a valid marriage in TX
                                                            iii.      Domestic Partners: Same-Sex partners can’t take as surviving spouses
                                                           iv.      Simultaneous Death – §47:
1.       TX: Person has to survive decedent by a minimal 120 hours (5 days) in order to be deemed to have survived
a.       If don’t survive by 120 hours then deemed to be predeceased
b.      Ex: Crash Hypo:
                              

                                                   i.      Issue of whether or not a child may inherit from a Foster Parent
                                                             ii.      Cts are more liberal in the interpretation of equitable adoption and an equitably adopted child can inherit from Foster parents (especially if child relied on the adoption) even though the child was not adopted, and even though we have an unperformed agreement to adopt.
e.      Posthumous Children
                                                               i.      Posthumous Child: Conceived before, but born after, father’s death
                                                             ii.      There is a presumptively rsnble time in which of the child is born (w/in 9 months) then it is presumed to be the child of the decedent.
                                                            iii.      Children have burden of proving they are “child” of deceased father
1.       Must demonstrate genetic relationship
2.       Must establish that decedent affirmatively consented to the posthumous conception and would have wanted to support any resulting child
                                                           iv.      Interest of child must be balanced against State Interest
1.       State Interests: Best interest of child, state’s interest in orderly administration of estates, reproductive rgts of genetic parent
f.        Reproductive Technology and new forms of parentage
                                                               i.      Willed Sperm
1.       Sperm is considered property so man can bequeath his sperm to girlfriend in his will and even if his other children contest, ct will not destroy
                                                             ii.      Extraction of Sperm from Dead or Comatose Man
1.       Most Doctors will do it, even if there is no proof of consent by the man
2.       Happens when parents want grandchildren
                                                            iii.      Suits affecting the parent/child relationships  – Assisted Reproduction
1.       Clinical Insemination – A donor is not a parent of a child conceived by assisted reproduction – (Just a sperm donor)
2.       Turkey Baster Rule: Woman does it herself with permission of specific donor
a.       Ex: If a H getting into the family relationship provides sperm or consents to assisted reproduction by his W, he is the father of the resulting child.
                                                                                                                                       i.      Consent must be in a record (for instance at the sperm bank)
                                                                                                                                     ii.      Or could be more informal record (such as in a letter)
b.      Have 4 years to use the genetic material.
g.       Advancements – §44
                                                               i.      Heir is given part or all his share during T’s life in place of what he’d otherwise get under will.
                                                             ii.      If child takes advancement, must permit administrator to include value of advancement in the determination of the remaining distributive shares.
1.       So that when T dies, child can’t claim it again b/c they already received it
                                                            iii.      Child has BOP that the gift was not an advancement.
                                                           iv.      Advancement Requirements
1.       Decedent declared in writing or heir made written acknowledgment that gift was an advancement
2.       OR decedent’s contemporaneous writing, or heirs written acknowledgement, indicates gift is to be taken into account in computing the division of the intestate estate
h.      Guardianship and Conservatorship of Minors – §§ 601, 602, 603
                                                               i.      Guardian of the Person – §136
1.       Responsible for child’s care or custody
2.       As long as natural parent is living they are natural guardian
3.       The naming of a person shows ct preference of parents choice in event both parents die
                                                             ii.      Property Management Options
1.       Guardianship of the Estate
a.       Responsible for managing prop/assets of minor or incapacitated adults estate
b.      Probate Ct will appoint a guardian ad litem for the ward up until the time the guardianship hearing takes place
                                                                                                                                       i.      Parent is not natural guardian of estate
2.       Conservatorship
a.       A guardian of property w/ investment pwrs similar to those of trustees
b.      More flexible than guardianship
3.       Custodianship
a.       Person is given property to hold for benefit of a minor under UTMA or UGMA
4.       Trusts
a.       Flexible and highly customizable property mgmt arrangement.
b.      Does not require ct supervision, requires trustee stated in a will.