Isaac v. Burnside, 616 S.W.3d 609 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2020, pet. denied).


In Terrorem Clause


Both the trial and appellate courts held that an in terrorem clause was not triggered when a beneficiary sought reimbursement for expenses incurred for the testator’s funeral.


Moral: A beneficiary may seek reimbursement for funeral expenses without risking forfeiture under a standard in terrorem clause.


Other Estate Planning Matters

Disposition of Remains


Beneficiary sued Independent Executor alleging breach of fiduciary duty for not reimbursing for Decedent’s funeral expenses. The trial court rendered judgment in favor of Beneficiary and Executor appealed.


The appellate court affirmed. The court studied Health & Safety Code § 711.002 which provides that Decedent’s instructions in a will have priority to govern the disposition of remains. Decedent’s will directed Executor to “make all arrangements for my funeral in keeping with my beliefs and station in life.” Decedent also precluded Beneficiary from making funeral or other arrangements. These instructions, however, did not address the disposition of remains and thus the court held that this section was inapplicable and did not bar Beneficiary’s reimbursement claim.


Moral: Granting a person authority to make “arrangements” for a funeral does not encompass the disposition of the remains. Thus, a person must explain his or her intent for arrangements and remains disposition separately.