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Will Construction

My loved one’s will is hard to understand, can the court help with that?

If your loved one left a holographic will, that is solely in their messy handwriting, or if their will is simply hard to understand, you can file to probate the will and have a judge or jury help understand the will’s meaning. If this is the case, the law provides for how the will’s language can be construed.

The main objective the court will have in understanding the will, is understanding your loved one’s intent. By doing this, the court will first examine the “four corners” of the will, that is, the court will look at the will in its entirety, to determine intent. The “four corners” also includes using any codicils to the will, documents that the will references, and, if there are any, the court will use any family settlement agreements. The court will also apply the plain meaning to all the words that are used in the will, that is, each word will be used as its ordinary meaning. If any of the words in the will are used inconsistently, your loved one’s intent will always be applied first. This is also the case for any typos or grammar issues found in the will.

Let’s say in the first paragraph of your loved one’s will, he or she gives “the Elvis records to Sam.” But then, the second paragraph gives “the Elvis records to George.” Well, unfortunately, under Texas case law, George will get the records. If, like in this instance, two paragraphs conflict, the later paragraph will control.

Then, if the language of the will is hard to understand, the court will look to see if evidence is needed to better understand your loved one’s intent. This can happen if there is some part of the will that cannot be carried out without the help of evidence to make the meaning clearer. Let’s say grandpa left you a track of land in West Texas but in the will, he left the description of land as “my land located in East Texas.” Well, grandpa doesn’t own land in East Texas, so the court can allow outside evidence to be brought in that shows grandpa meant the West Texas land.

Finally, the court will settle on the will’s meaning. If the court determines the will to be clear on your loved one’s intent, there will be no need to try and further understand its meaning. If though, the court finds the will to be hard to understand, the judge or jury in the case will determine your loved one’s intent based on the above principles.

If you hire Guest and Gray though, this will not be a problem your loved ones will have to fix. We use the correct language and appropriate forms in drafting our wills. By using our services, we will draft a will for you that is clear as day to what your desires are for your property after your passing.

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