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Will Contest Case Study: Bedell Part 2

San Antonio Estate Lawyer Arguments for Will Contest
Case Study: Bedell Part 2

This is part two of our Bedell Case Study series. Last week we discussed the case summary and went over the first argument against Deborah Bedell, the wife of Wade Bedell who is now deceased. This week, we will continue the arguments that San Antonio estate lawyer Jimmy Carter presented.

Bedell Will Contest Case

“And without question, one of the most exceptionally unusual wills we’ve ever had.”
—Trial Judge

At issue in this particular will contest, San Antonio estate lawyer Jimmy Carter established during the trial that Appellant did not meet her burden to prove that the July 7, 2005 document was qualified to be admitted to probate as a will that revoked an earlier June 17, 2003 will. This article contains excerpts from publicly available briefs filed with the Fourth Court of Appeals by appellate attorneys, Rob Ramsey and Jimmy Carter. The Court of Appeals affirmed the will contest trial court’s judgment successfully handled to final judgment by San Antonio estate lawyer Jimmy Carter.

View Final Court Opinion

The Questionable Witnesses

Jimmy Carter, the San Antonio estate lawyer during the trial, proved that Deborah’s witnesses for the new will were faulty.

Joe Cervantes, who Deborah claimed had been a witness to the 2005 purported will, testified that he had not signed it as a witness at all, nor had he seen anyone else do so.

“[H]ave you ever seen this document,” Robyn’s attorney asked as he handed Cervantes the 2005 document.

“No,” he shook his head, “No.”

“[I]s that your signature in the bottom left-hand corner of the purported will?”

“Sorry to say, I don’t think so,” he responded. “‘Cervantes’ is kind of like the way I sign, but I don’t recall signing this.”

“[D]id anyone ever ask you to serve as a witness for Wade Bedell’s will?”

“No,” Cervantes responded.

“Is that a request that you would have remembered?” asked the trial judge.

“Yes.”

“Is it your opinion that you would have remembered signing an oversized document like the purported will that’s in your hand?”

“It was.”

“Would actually being a witness to Mr. Wade Bedell’s will be something that you would remember?”

“Yes,” again replied Mr. Cervantes.

“Are those your initials?” the judge asked.

“Don’t look like it,” said Cervantes, who was certain that he “never went over there and signed that will at that house.”

“You never got in the car,” the judge reiterated, “went over there with all these other people and signed this will?”

“No,” he said. “But there was other documents I signed when I bought … the house. And we made a contract that I would pay him over the years. And he had my signature there.”

“[Y]ou have no idea who could have put your name on that will?”

“No,” the witness refused at trial.

“And you clearly just definitely were not there?”

“No.”

“Have you ever been in the house with [Gus and Deborah]?”

“Yes.”

“And what would you do?”

“Just go visit Mr. Bedell, see how he’s doing, talk business maybe.”

“And at no occasion did you sign a will like that?”

“No.”

Cervantes’ testimony contradicted that of Deborah’s brother Gus, who claimed that Cervantes had been present and had signed as a witness too. Gus also said that Deborah had been there, but, like Cervantes, she denied having been present when Wade signed the document. She did admit, though, that it was she, not Wade, who had asked Gus to be a witness.

The Unusual Signatures

In Texas, a will should only contain one signature from the grantor. However, on the new will, Mr. Bedell’s signature appeared twice.

Although Cervantes denied that his signature appeared on the 2005 document, it contains Wade’s signature twice, in two different colors of ink. Gus, however, only saw him sign it once.

“[W]hy would he sign it twice?” the trial court asked.

“I would think that the notary was the one that was telling him where to sign,” said Gus.

“The notary wouldn’t have let him sign twice,” the judge pointed out.

The NOTARY

During the will contest trial, Deborah claimed that the notary, Elizabeth Lazarony, had served as a witness, rather than a notary, to the 2005 document.

“He had two witnesses come to his house,” Deborah’s probate attorney originally told the trial court: “Gus Brown [and] [Joe] Cervantes.” In addition, the probate attorney informed the judge that Lazarony “acted as a notary and notarized the will.” Subsequently, Deborah’s San Antonio probate attorney asserted that the notary had served as a witness to the 2005 purported will. But that the document does not say that, nor did the notary testify at trial to contradict that document or corroborate Deborah’s claim as to the revised nature of the notary’s role.

Will Contest Case Study: Bedell Part 3

Next week we will continue this Bedell will contest case by going over one more argument and the ruling for the will contest case.

 

James Carter | Will Contest Lawyer San Antonio

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.

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