Morris v. West’s Estate
Texas Court of Appeals
643 S.W.2d 204 (1982)
The decedent, C.K. West, executed a will that gave one-third of his estate to his daughter’s ex-husband, Jackson Morris (plaintiff), and which omitted West’s grandson, Patrick. The two witnesses to West’s will watched West sign the will in a conference room, then walked down a hallway to a secretary’s office to sign the attestation clauses while West remained in the conference room. The conference room and secretary’s office were separated by another office. The Texas probate code requires witnesses to a testator’s will to sign their names in the presence of the testator. West’s daughter, Lorraine, and Patrick (defendants) objected to admitting West’s will to probate. A jury trial was held to determine whether the two witnesses to West’s will were in West’s presence when they signed the will. The jury found that the witnesses were not in West’s presence when they signed the will, and the trial court therefore declined probate of the will. Morris appealed, arguing that the witnesses were in West’s presence as a matter of law when they signed West’s will, because they were in the same office suite and because West would have been able to physically see the witnesses sign the will with a minimum of effort.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Dickenson, A.J.)
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