Attorney’s Fees

In re Estate of Huff, 15 S.W.3d 301 (Tex. App.—Texarkana 2000, no pet.).


Proponents attempted to probate Decedent’s 1996 will. Contestants offered a 1993 will and alleged that the 1996 will was invalid due to lack of testamentary capacity and undue influence. Intervenors claimed that Decedent revoked both wills with a subsequent holographic will and requested reasonable attorney fees. Intervenors were not named in the holographic will but because the will did not completely dispose of Decedent’s estate, they would take the residuary through intestacy. The trial court determined that the holographic instrument was not a valid will but that Intervenors brought their claim in good faith. Accordingly, the trial court awarded Intervenors almost $20,000 in attorney’s fees under Probate Code § 243. Proponents appealed.

The appellate court reversed. Probate Code § 243 gives the court discretion to award attorney’s fees to “designated beneficiaries in a will or alleged will.” Intervenors were not named in the will either individually or as a class. (Note: It is an open question in Texas whether a class gift is a sufficient designation to fall under the statute.). The court also rejected the argument that Intervenors were entitled to attorney’s fees merely because they requested appointment as an administrator with the will annexed. Accordingly, the trial court had no authority to award attorney’s fees to Intervenors.

Moral: The court’s ability to award attorney’s fees does not extend to persons who (1) are not designated in the alleged will or (2) apply to be appointed as the administrator of a document that is not admitted to probate.