In re Estate of Heider, 496 S.W.3d 118 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2016, no pet.).




Testatrix’s will made a specific devise of land to Son. The land was subject to a secured debt. A dispute arose between Son and Remainder Beneficiary regarding whether the debt should be exonerated by other estate property not specifically devised. The trial court ruled in favor of Son that a portion of the debt secured by specific devise is to be exonerated. Remainder Beneficiary appealed.


The appellate court reversed. The court began its analysis by examining Estates Code §§ 255.301and 255.302 which set forth a presumption that a specific gift passes subject to secured debts unless the will expressly provides otherwise. The court rejected Son’s claim that the devise which made no mention of how a secured debt was to be handled specifically stated that it should be exonerated. The court also rejected Son’s claim that a will provision granting the executor the ability to transfer property subject to debts meant that if the executor does not exercise discretion, the debt is exonerated.


Moral:  Whenever a testator makes a specific gift of property, the will should expressly address the issue of exoneration.