January 19, 2021

Volume XI, Number 19

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January 19, 2021

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January 18, 2021

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Court Holds That Holographic Will Was Not Valid As There Was No Signature

In In the Estate of Hohmann, the decedent died without leaving an executed will, but his caretaker found a hand written document wherein the decedent stated his wishes for his property. No. 04-20-00237-CV, 2020 Tex. App. LEXIS 9216 (Tex. App.—San Antonio November 25, 2020, no pet. history). The decedent’s cousin filed an application to probate the hand written document as a written will, and an heir of the decedent filed an opposition. The trial court granted summary judgment for the opponent, and the applicant appealed.

The court of appeals held that generally, “a valid last will and testament must be: (1) in writing; (2) signed by the testator; and (3) attested by two or more credible witnesses.” Id. “However, a document that does not meet the attestation requirement may be admitted to probate as a holographic will if it “is handwritten entirely by the testator” and the testator “affix[ed] a signature or initial to the document to execute the instrument.” Id. The applicant contended “the handwritten phrase “R. Hohmann Estate” in the body of the written instrument constitutes more than a scintilla of evidence that Raymond signed that document.” Id. The court held that the hand-written document had not been signed and was not valid:

Bobby notes that “Texas courts have been lenient concerning the location and form of a ‘signature’” on a holographic will. “However, while the signature may be informal and its location is of secondary importance, it is still necessary that the maker intend that his name or mark constitute a signature, i.e., that it expresses approval of the instrument as his will.” Here, we see no evidence in the written instrument indicating that Raymond intended the phrase “R. Hohmann Estate” to serve as his signature. That phrase is used only once, in connection with a purported bequest to three named individuals. When the written instrument is viewed as a whole, the phrase “R. Hohmann Estate” bears no apparent connection to any of its other provisions. Because nothing in the written instrument indicates the phrase “R. Hohmann Estate” expresses Raymond’s approval of that document as a whole, these facts are distinguishable from the authority upon which Bobby relies.

Id. (internal citations omitted).

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© 2020 Winstead PC.National Law Review, Volume XI, Number 14
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About this Author

David Johnson Financial Institution lLtigation Winstead Law Firm Fort Worth Texas
Managing Shareholder - Fort Worth

David maintains an active trial and appellate practice and has consistently worked on financial institution litigation matters throughout his career. David is the primary author of the Texas Fiduciary Litigator blog, which reports on legal cases and issues impacting the fiduciary field in Texas. 

David's financial institution experience includes (but is not limited to): breach of contract, foreclosure litigation, lender liability, receivership and injunction remedies upon default, non-recourse and other real estate lending, class...

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