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Dane Patrick writes on why Court Finds that Decedent Revived his 2001 Will by his 2016 Hand-Written Notation

Introduction. In the Estate of Wlecyk, the trial court found that the Decedent revived his 2001 Will by making a 2016 hand-written notation on the Will that it stands. [No. 01-19-00299-CV; 2021 WL 1537489 (Tex.App.–Houston [1st Dist.] April 20, 2021, no pet.)]. This resulted in Decedent’s estate passing to his children in equal shares rather than to his live-in friend.

Background & analysis. Billy Joe Wlecyk died on January 30, 2018, while bailing hay. On February 1, 2018, Billy Joe’s daughter, Sharon Reed, filed an application to probate Billy Joe’s 2001 Will that was ratified on July 15, 2016. The ratification was significant because Billy Joe had also executed a Will in 2005 leaving his estate to his live-in friend, Daniel. Whereas, in the 2001 Will, Billy Joe left his estate in equal shares to his children.

Daniel filed a competing Application requesting the Court to probate the 2005 Will leaving everything to her. She contended that the 2005 Will remained in effect at the time of Billy Joe’s death and that the 2016 hand-written notation on the 2001 Will was procured by fraud. After hearing the evidence, the Court found that Billy Joe’s hand-written 2016 notation revived Billy Joe’s 2001 Will. The trial court admitted the 2001 Will to probate.

So, how did the 2001 Will end up trumping the 2005 Will? Well, on July 15, 2016, Billy Joe called his daughter, Sharon, and asked her to bring him the 2001 Will. Sharon removed the 2001 Will from her gun safe where she had stored it for safekeeping (no place but Texas). She took it to Billy Joe who was at the home of his friend, Allan. Billy Joe put the Will on the car hood and wrote on this 2001 Will that “This will still stands.” He initialed this notation. This was followed by Billy Joe’s handwritten signature. Another page followed containing a jurat stating that the document was “signed and sworn to” in Brazoria County, on July 15, 2016, by Billy Joe Wleczyk, before notary Kimberly Miller. Estate of Wlecyk, No. 01-19-00299-CV, 2021 WL 1537489, at *1 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] Apr. 20, 2021, no pet.).

When Billy Joe signed the written notation, his daughter, Sharon, and his two friends, Allan and Pamela, were all present. Pamela’s testimony included that, prior to writing the 2016 codicil on the 2001 Will, Daniel said that Billy Joe wanted her to move out of his house. Allan testified that when Billy Joe signed the 2016 codicil, Billy Joe “appeared to be of sound mind and body, and to know what he wanted. “ No one was pressuring Billy Joe.

After the trial, the court admitted the 2001 will and the 2016 codicil to probate and appointed Sharon as independent executor. In doing so, the trial court found that Billy Joe executed a valid hand-written codicil on July 15, 2016. This 2016 codicil not only revived the 2001 Will but it also revoked the 2005 Will.

The court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s decision.

A written will may be revoked by “a subsequent will, codicil, or declaration in writing that is executed with like formalities.” TEX. EST. CODE ANN. § 253.002.

Estate of Wlecyk, No. 01-19-00299-CV, 2021 WL 1537489, at *5 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] Apr. 20, 2021, no pet.).

A codicil that contains a sufficient reference to a prior will operates as a republication of the will as much as the codicil does not alter or revoke it.

Id at *5.

“Like formalities” means “under the formalities required to establish a valid will.” Wells v. Royall Nat’l Bank, 249 S.W.2d 695, 698 (Tex. App.—Galveston 1952, writ ref’d n.r.e.). It “does not mean that a typewritten, attested will can be revoked only by a later typewritten, attested instrument, or that a holographic will can be revoked only by a later holographic instrument.” Cason v. Taylor, 51 S.W.3d 397, 410–11 (Tex. App.—Waco 2001, no pet.). “A holographic will can revoke an attested will, and vice versa, so long as the revoking instrument is in accordance with the legal requirements.

Id at *5.

To be valid, a holographic will must be wholly written in the testator’s handwriting and signed by the testator. TEX. EST. CODE ANN. § 251.052.

Id at *5.

The record supports the trial court’s finding that the 2016 codicil meets these requirements. Miller, [Sharon] Reed, and Allan all testified that they watched as Billy Joe wrote and signed the codicil.

Id at *6.

Conclusion. It appears that the court reached the just result in this case. However, the problems that arose could have probably been avoided if the Decedent had requested his attorney to draft a new formal will in 2016. Simple estate planning is relatively inexpensive and well worth the peace of mind it will give your rightful heirs, when it comes time for them to probate your estate.

Dane Patrick

Dane Patrick has been protecting businesses, individuals, and families in high-stakes commercial litigation since 1987. The majority of his practice is devoted to the litigation and trial of complex business and fiduciary disputes. These cases often include claims for breach of corporate and part...


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