Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Monday, April 20, 2009

Trust contest -- fraud, undue influence, and duress

Texas In Cooper v. Cochran, 272 S.W.3d 756 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2008, no pet. h.), both the trial and appellate courts agreed that an inter vivos trust was invalid because Settlor was induced to enter into the trust because of fraud, duress, and undue influence.  With regard to the fraud claim, the evidence showed that the settlor placed property into the trust for Beneficiary in exchange for Beneficiary’s (grandson’s) promise to take care of Settlor (grandmother).  Further, the evidence showed that Beneficiary never intended to take of Settlor.

Regarding the duress and undue influence assertions, the evidence revealed that Beneficiary told Settlor that “she would never see the light of day” and that he would “put her in an insane asylum” if she did not sign the trust.  This, coupled with the fact that Settlor was elderly, living alone, and needed assistance, was sufficient evidence to support the trial court’s finding of duress and undue influence.

Moral:  A trial court’s finding of fraud, duress, or undue influence will be difficult to set aside on appeal.


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