Classes on residual clauses in keeping with Odom v. Coleman – New York Property Planning Attorney – Weblog – April 7, 2021
In the most recent case of Odom v. ColemanA brother and sister took legal action against another on a matter involving their father’s estate. The dispute between the two siblings centered on whether the father’s estate should be reformed under Section 255.451 (a) (3) of the Texas Estates Code, which allows the courts to amend or, if necessary, reform a will to create a ” “Scrivener Error” in the terms of the will to conform to the testator’s intention, which must be based on clear and convincing evidence.
The will in this case
The will in this case contained a residue clause that passed personal property on to the son and then to the daughter. A rigid interpretation of the will showed that the real estate assets of the deceased would not be included in the residual cause, but would be passed on through intestacy. The son then took legal action to revise the will to leave out the word “personal” in the arrears clause. The court eventually appealed on behalf of the son and daughter.
The daughter argued that the will was clear and should be read to mean that the arrears clause only applies to personal property. The appellate court rejected this argument because the Reformation and amendment cases with written documents differ from the construction cases and therefore the same legal principles do not apply to both. The appeals court also found that Reformation cases where a party alleges that a written instrument does not reflect the party’s intent or the parties’ enforcement document. As a result, the court ruled that the court could hear evidence of the testator’s intent as this matter constituted a Reformation case.
Fixing wills to correct Scrivener errors
The court also found that Booths Code Subsection 255.451 (a) (3) states that a will can be reformed or modified to correct a scrivener’s mistakes, even if the terms of the will are clear. In order to interpret the terms of a will, it sometimes becomes critical to rely on outside evidence to judge whether the terms of the will accurately reflect the will of the testator. Extrinsic evidence is only allowed in cases where a term is open to more than one construction.
The court then examined the evidence and upheld the court’s assessment that the will should be reformed. The court also ruled that the court’s finding was based on clear and convincing evidence, while rejecting an argument that the son’s claim to reform of the trust triggered an in-terrorism clause. In conclusion, the court upheld the judgment of the court reforming the will to remove the word “personally” from the arrears clause so that the son was entitled to all of the deceased’s property that was not sold in the will.
Contact an estate planning attorney
If you or a loved one is involved in estate planning, deciding which plan is best for you can be difficult. One of the best steps you can take in a situation like this is to talk to an experienced lawyer. Contact Law firm Ettinger today to schedule a free case assessment.