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Results of Texas Declaratory Judgment Opinions

Results of Texas Declaratory Judgment Opinions in Texas Will Contest Cases.

 

Court Declaratory Judgment Opinions on Texas Will Contest Cases

Below is an analysis of the last 25 years of Texas Courts of Appeals’ opinions (and all Texas Supreme Court opinions) related to declaratory relief either in the probate court or related to trusts. The document should provide San Antonio trust & estate lawyers with a method to quickly compare brewing client scenarios with existing precedence as well as providing assistance with lawsuit planning by efficiently locating analogous opinions from which to draw conclusions.

View Opinions

The organization and details provided in the document should be quite useful to estate and trust attorneys/probate lawyers in San Antonio. The information is categorized by various relevant groups:

  • Estates
  • Guardianships
  • Trusts

The information is then categorized into subgroups:

  • Construction
  • Duties
  • In terrorem clauses
  • Judicial discharge
  • General litigation
  • Miscellaneous
  • POD accounts
  • Real estate
  • Validity
  • Will contests

Each case has been further analyzed to reveal the involvement of a jury, the probate court, a brief summary of the declaratory relief requested, and the court’s ruling on attorneys’ fees.

Review of Findings to reference for San Antonio Will Contests

 

Trends in Methods of Reaching a Final Judgment

Trends in Methods of Reaching a Final Judgment
This table illustrates the method of reaching a final judgment in the reported opinions for the past 25 years

In many of the opinions (particularly the older ones), the factual recitation was often silent as to how the judgment became final, other than stating something like “. . . in the court’s declaratory judgment. . . .” In my as a San Antonio probate attorney, this was unclear and is reflected by “N/A” in the table.

There appear to be two clear trends. First, the vast majority of resolutions for declaratory relief in probate court occur by summary judgment. Second, the frequency of request for declaratory relief (or, at least, the appeal of declaratory relief) is increasing. This may be good news both for San Antonio probate attorneys and for their clients filing for San Antonio will contest cases desirous of what is at least termed a method to be liberally interpreted for prompt resolution.

Texas Probate Attorney Fees in Declaratory Judgments

Texas Probate Attorney Fees in Declaratory Judgments
This table contains the findings related to trust & estate lawyers’ fees in estate/trust related, declaratory judgment cases in the Texas courts of appeal over the last 25 years

Texas Probate Attorney Fees in Declaratory Judgments Trends  
This table contains shows the trend of trust & estate lawyers’ fees in estate/trust related, declaratory judgment cases in the Texas courts of appeal over the last 25 years

Over the last 25 years, Texas trust & estate lawyers’ fees were granted more often than denied, and were addressed more frequently in modern times than in the past. This data addresses only occurrences where Texas probate attorneys’ fees were actually presented, as opposed to occurrences where the opinion was silent on lawyers’ fees (that is, attorneys’ fees may have been addressed in the trial court and not by appellate brief).

Distribution of Declaratory Requests

Distribution of Declaratory Requests
This table illustrates the distribution of “subgroups” over the past 25 years related to estate/trust, declaratory judgment cases in the Texas courts of appeal

The data appears to indicate that the bulk of trust based declaratory judgment requests center around general litigation matters and trust constructions. For estates, the leader is once again general litigation followed by will constructions. Finally, guardianship again confirms that general litigation is the favorite subject of declaratory judgment matters in probate court, with no second category taking a significant position.

 

James Carter | Texas Will Contest Lawyer

James W. Carter

Author
James Carter practices law in the areas of probate, trust, and real estate litigation at Langley & Banack’s San Antonio location. Mr. Carter is known as a strong fiduciary litigation attorney with a proven track record in trying complex will contest cases. The San Antonio Business Journal presented Mr. Carter the Outstanding Lawyer Award in 2016, and he is also AV-rated “Preeminent” by Martindale-Hubbell. Mr. Carter is a frequent speaker and author on matters involving Texas probate, estate, and trust litigation.