Matter of Estate of Zerboni, 556 S.W.3d 482 (Tex. App.—El Paso 2018, no pet.).


Testator's Signature


After Husband died, Wife probated his will. Daughter later intervened claiming that Husband’s signature on the will was a forgery and thus she would be a beneficiary under a prior will. Daughter brought forth evidence of a handwriting expert who examined dozens of Husband’s documents and who concluded that the signature on the will was a forgery. Nonetheless, the trial court granted Wife a no evidence motion for summary judgment dismissing Daughter’s claim. Daughter appealed.


The appellate court affirmed holding that the expert’s report did not raise a genuine issue of material fact regarding the authorship of the signature which would preclude a summary judgment. The court explained that the dozens of samples were never proved up as admissible and that the expert’s opinion was conclusory. The expert merely said he compared the exemplar signatures to the will signature and concluded that the signature on the will was a forgery. The expert failed to explain the perceived differences between the signatures.


Moral:  A will contestant alleging forgery needs to bring forth clear evidence from an expert who explains the reasons for the conclusion that the will is forged to prevent losing to a no evidence summary judgment motion.