Estate of Lee, 551 S.W.3d 802 (Tex. App.—Texarkana 2018, no pet.).


Will Contests



Beneficiary of a trust created in Testatrix’s will which was subsequently amended by two codicils under which he does not benefit attempted to contest the latter codicil. The trial court held that Beneficiary lacked standing because even if the contest were successful, he would not receive property under the earlier codicil. Beneficiary appealed.


The appellate court affirmed. The court determined that merely because Beneficiary was a beneficiary of a revoked testamentary trust does not give him standing to contest the latter codicil. First, Beneficiary is not an “interested person” under Estates Code § 22.018(1) because he has no property right or claim against Testatrix’s estate. Instead, he only has a potential right because he would need to successfully contest both codicils to be entitled to estate property. Second, Beneficiary does not have standing under case law because his alleged pecuniary interest is too far removed.


The court also rejected Beneficiary’s claim that he has standing because he and a beneficiary under the earlier codicil and original will entered into an agreement under which Beneficiary agreed to contest the latter codicil in exchange for 40% of what the other beneficiary recovers. The trial court determined that this agreement was invalid because the other beneficiary’s interest, if obtained, would be controlled by a spendthrift provisions in both the will and earlier codicil preventing her from conveying any interest in the property. Thus, Beneficiary could not rely on this agreement to provide standing to contest the latter codicil.


Moral:  A party to a will contest must be certain to have a pecuniary interest in the outcome of the litigation which is not too far removed. In other words, a successful contest should put property in the contestant’s pocket.