Interpretation and Construction

Powers of Executor

Vinson v. Brown, 80 S.W.3d 221 (Tex. App.—Austin 2002, no pet.).


Testator’s will provided that Executor may sell any of Testator’s real property including land in a particular subdivision. In a subsequent clause, Executor was given the authority to continue Testator’s development of that subdivision. Owners of property in the subdivision assert that the will requires Executor to finish developing the land as a subdivision before selling it.

The court held that Executor was under no obligation to develop the land. The court refused to interpret the word “direct” as used in the phrase “authorize, empower, and direct” as imposing on Executor a mandatory duty to develop the land. The court also held that the specific provision dealing with the subdivision did not trump the prior provision granting Executor the power to sell.

Moral: A testator should carefully select words which clearly impose mandatory or precatory obligations as the testator desires. A testator should avoid mixing words which arguably could reflect conflicting intents.