Estate of Finney, 424 S.W.3d 608 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2013, no pet.).



Contractual Will'


Testator’s contractual will bequeathed Beneficiary $1,000,000 “on the express condition that she . . . reside with and care for me until my death.”  Testator provided a gift over to Daughter if Beneficiary failed to satisfy the condition.  After Testator died, Daughter claimed that Beneficiary did not meet the condition.  However, the jury found that Beneficiary did comply and the court signed a judgment awarding the bequest to Beneficiary.  Sister appealed.


The appellate court affirmed.  The key issues were not based in wills law but rather in the law of evidence.  For example, Daughter complained that the trial court erred when it excluded evidence of lifetime gifts Testator made to Beneficiary.  The trial court determined that risk of unfair prejudice was greater than the probative value of the evidence and the appellate court agreed.  Although not specifically discussed in the opinion, it would appear that Daughter was attempting to claim that the bequest was partially satisfied by lifetime gifts.  Of course, mere proof of lifetime gifts is insufficient to show satisfaction; a writing indicating the “satisfaction nature” of the gift is needed under Estates Code § 255.101.


Moral:  An estate litigator needs to be very familiar with the Texas Rules of Evidence.