Cooper v. Cochran, 288 S.W.3d 522 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2009, no pet.).



Fraud and Undue Influence


Both the trial and appellate courts agreed that an inter vivos trust was invalid because Settlor was induced to enter into the trust because of fraud, duress, and undue influence. With regard to the fraud claim, the evidence showed that the settlor placed property into the trust for Beneficiary in exchange for Beneficiary’s (grandson’s) promise to take care of Settlor (grandmother). Further, the evidence showed that Beneficiary never intended to take of Settlor.

Regarding the duress and undue influence assertions, the evidence revealed that Beneficiary told Settlor that “she would never see the light of day” and that he would “put her in an insane asylum” if she did not sign the trust. This, coupled with the fact that Settlor was elderly, living alone, and needed assistance, was sufficient evidence to support the trial court’s finding of duress and undue influence.

Note: This is a restatement of Cooper v. Cochran, 272 S.W.3d 756 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2008, no pet. h.), which was withdrawn after the court learned that Cooper filed for bankruptcy during the pendency of the appeal rendering the court’s original opinion void.

Moral: A trial court’s finding of fraud, duress, or undue influence will be difficult to set aside on appeal.