Non-Probate Transfers

Investment Account

Holley v. Grigg, 65 S.W.3d 289 (Tex. App.—Eastland 2001, no pet.).


Decedent owned an investment account on the date of his death which named his five children as beneficiaries. The account also provided that if a beneficiary predeceased Decedent, that beneficiary’s share would pass to the surviving children. Decedent did not select the option of having a deceased beneficiary’s share pass to the deceased beneficiary’s children. When Decedent died, one of his children had predeceased him survived by a child. In a summary judgment, the trial court held that this child was not entitled to share in the brokerage account under the express terms of the account.

The appellate court affirmed. The brokerage account qualified as a valid nontestamentary transfer under both Probate Code § 450 and the equivalent statute of Missouri, the state whose law is to govern under the terms of the account. The court held that the account agreement was unambiguous and that there was no evidence that even if Decedent had made a unilateral mistake when he executed the account agreement by not selecting the anti-lapse option, it would not provide the court with a basis to alter the contract.

Moral: The estate planner must carefully inspect the beneficiary designations on non-probate assets to make certain they provide for the disposition of property the client desires.