Legal Question in Wills and Trusts in Texas

Will or Trust Timeline

I am working on a novel in which a well-to-do heiress has died under mysterious circumstances. Her only family is an estranged son. (By the way, it is in a fictitious place and the state is not named, so there is some leeway there.)

We are anxious to find out who is in the will (or trust or whatever). How soon can someone find out? Who would likely find out first? Would police investigating the death be able to access that information?

You can probably tell that the story is playing out over a short period of time. That's why I'm asking for the quickest scenarios, but I want the events to be at least possible. Thank you for considering my question.

Asked on 5/12/04, 2:25 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Nile Copeland Cheng Copeland PLLC
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Re: Will or Trust Timeline

Are you trying to set this in a state similar to Texas and use the framework of Texas wills to add a thread of realism and touch of plausability?

There are some interesting twists you can add to the story that come from some actual cases but in this story, I suppose I should begin asking:

when was the will signed?

where was it signed?

any witnesses?

size of the estate?

only the ine child, right?

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5/12/04, 3:17 pm
Peter Bradie Bradie, Bradie & Bradie
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Re: Will or Trust Timeline

A well-to-do heiress would probably have the majority of her estate in a trust. Her lawyer would have a copy, and may actually be the trustee. The information in the trust would not be willingly divulged.

If in Texas, she'd also have what is known as a 'pour-over' will, that transfers any property held in her name to the trust. That, at least, would identify the trust.

The pour-over will would be filed after the death certificate issued. If the death was in question, the certificate wouldn't issue until after an autopsy, so there's no fixed time for that. Once the application for probate of the will is filed, at least ten day must elapse before an uncontested hearing is held.

With a properly drawn and self-proven will, the attorney need be the only witness at the hearing. If the son is estranged, the will probably leaves him a few thousand dollars, and has an "in terrorem" clause where anyone challenging the will only receives $1.00.

Does that give you something to sink your teeth into?

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5/12/04, 3:51 pm

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