Estate of Johnson: Sufficient evidence supported jury finding of undue influence
In re Estate of Johnson detailed a highly contentious dispute involving the estate of a descendent of Belton Kleberg Johnson of King Ranch heritage. Johnson's children and grandchildren challenged various estate planning documents that left substantial royalties to his third wife, instead of to them. The jury found certain of the will and trust documents were procured by undue influence. The San Antonio Court of Appeals upheld that determination, as the evidence was legally and factually sufficient to support a finding that the documents would not have been executed but for the undue influence. The Court detailed the legal elements of an undue influence claim. Regarding factual proof, the Court noted:
Although the parties cite cases in support of their respective positions, no two cases involving undue influence are alike, and each case must stand or fall depending upon the sufficiency of the facts proven.
The Court ultimately found the evidence of binge drinking alcoholism, memory problems, the spouse's involvement in estate planning meetings, and "relationship poisoning" were sufficient to support the jury's findings of undue influence. Contesting a Will in Texas