In the event of a family member’s death, the process of probate – or the legal process that occurs in relation to the deceased’s assets and debts – can oftentimes turn contentious, particularly when there are large sums of money involved. When family members present different, competing versions of a will, the probate process becomes even more complicated, as is the case with the recent death of 79-year-old W. Marvin Rush II.
A Family Divided
Mr. Rush founded what is today the largest commercial truck dealership chain in North America. Upon his death, his oldest son W.M. “Rusty” Rush III – chairman, CEO, and president of his late father’s company – filed one version of his father’s will dated 2006. Meanwhile, Mr. Rush’s third wife Barbara filed two additional wills (one dated May 2013 and another from November 2013). The primary asset at stake in these competing documents? The majority of Mr. Rush’s stock in his own company, valued at almost $74 million.
While Barbara is only asking the court (Estate of W. Marvin Rush, II, Deceased, Case No. 2018-PC-0183) to validate the November 2013 will, Rusty alleges issues relating the capacity of his father during the time period the will was signed and it should therefore be declared invalid. Rusty’s filings claim the two 2013 wills, which cut him out of any inheritance, “represented a dramatic departure from (Marvin’s) long-standing estate plan of leaving his shares of stock in Rush Enterprises to his son Rusty.” Instead, the 2013 wills do not specify a specific recipient for Mr. Rush’s shares, making them a part of his residuary estate – of which Barbara is the sole beneficiary.
Longer Lives Don’t Always Equal Mental Capacity
While advancements in medicine allow us to live longer lives, issues of mental health and capacity continue to increase when it comes to probate litigation. Deterioration of cognitive functions can impact or even invalidate a person’s ability to sign a legal document – like a will, for instance – in the eyes of the court. Issues relating to Mr. Rush’s “testamentary capacity” are therefore in question for the 2013 will.
Dueling wills are not uncommon, particularly when large amounts of money or other assets are at stake. Most courts will presume the most recent will is the valid legal document; however, when issues of mental capacity arise, there is an obligation to determine if the deceased had the ability to execute the will at the time it was signed, which is handled in probate court.
Probate Litigation Lawyers in Texas
Litigation surrounding wills and estates is likely to increase as lifespans increase, and having a dedicated probate attorney well versed in litigation is crucial. While we take pride in skillfully representing our probate litigation clients in court, we are also mindful of the costs and uncertainty that come with litigation. Therefore, we approach every case practically and collaborate with our clients to ensure we stay true to their goals.