Remainder Beneficiary Killing Life Tenant

Medford v. Medford, 68 S.W.3d 242 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 2002, no pet.).


Father devised a life estate in a house to Mother with the remainder passing to Son One and Son Two. Son One killed Mother and was convicted of causing serious bodily injury to an elderly person. Son Two rented the house. Son One sued to recover one-half of the rental income based on his status as a tenant in common. The trial court granted a take nothing summary judgment in favor of Son Two. Son One appealed.

The appellate court reversed. The court cited the Article I, § 21 of the Texas Constitution and Probate Code § 41(d) which provides that a conviction does not cause a corruption of the blood or forfeiture of property. Thus, the only way Son Two could prevent Son One from receiving the rental income was to demonstrate that a constructive trust should be imposed on Son One’s share of the house because he caused the death of the life tenant. Despite the criminal conviction of Son One, the appellate court held that the conviction alone was not sufficient to support the trial court’s imposition of a constructive trust. Son Two failed to present evidence regarding why he should be the beneficiary of the constructive trust and exactly what property over which the constructive trust should be imposed. The court also concluded that the trial court’s take nothing judgment could not be read as imposing a constructive trust.

Moral: A person asserting a constructive trust must strictly prove the elements of a constructive trust including the unconscionable conduct, the person in whose favor the constructive trust should be imposed, and the assets to be covered by the constructive trust. Mere proof of conduct justifying a constructive trust is insufficient. The evidence must permit the court to enter an order imposing the constructive trust and defining its terms.