In re Estate of Scott, No. 1685419, 2020 WL 1685419 (Tex. App.—El Paso Apr. 7, 2020, no pet. h.).


Will Contests


Both the trial and appellate courts agreed that the testator’s three alleged wills were executed as the result of undue influence. In addition, they agreed that the proponents of the wills did not act in good faith in defending the wills and accordingly were not entitled to attorney fees under Estates Code § 352.052.


The opinion is not significant from a legal point of view; the court applied the standard principals regarding the finding of undue influence providing an excellent summary of the key Texas cases. Instead, it is the detailed factual description of the testator’s mental and physical condition and the conduct of the will beneficiaries that became the focus of the court’s opinion. The outrageous conduct of the will proponents lead the appellate court to agree that the jury had sufficient evidence, both factually and legally, to support a finding that all three wills were the result of their exercise of undue influence over the testator.


The court also examined the will proponents’ request for over $400,000 in attorney’s fees for defending the contests of the wills. The court agreed that the jury had sufficient evidence to support its finding that the proponents did not act in good faith or with just cause.


Moral:  Unless a jury finding is manifestly unjust, shocks the conscience, or clearly demonstrates bias, an appellate court will uphold findings of undue influence and lack of good faith.