Pickelner v. Adler,
Testatrix’s will provided that the residuary of her estate
passed to Beneficiary (the attorney who drafted the will) “to be distributed in
accordance with the specific
The appellate court affirmed the result. The court engaged in an extensive discussion of the types of trusts recognized by Texas law, express, resulting, and constructive, as well as the concepts of the “secret trust” and the “semi-secret trust.” Unlike the trial court, the appellate court held that it was clear that Testatrix intended to create a trust and that Beneficiary was to receive only legal title to property. Because the trust lacked essential terms (the names of the beneficiaries), it was a semi-secret trust, that is, a resulting trust, so Beneficiary holds the property for Testatrix’s successors in interest (her heirs).
Moral: Trust terms should be clearly stated in the trust, be it inter vivos or testamentary. It is not prudent to rely on oral instructions.
The appellate court agreed with the trial court that an alleged family settlement agreement was not enforceable because all of the heirs and beneficiaries did not sign the agreement and it would have distributed assets contrary to the rights of individuals who did not sign the agreement.
Moral: All heirs and beneficiaries need to sign a family settlement agreement before it will be effective.