When Can a Will Be Modified Or Reformed Under Texas Law?

Only a personal representative can petition the court for modification or reformation of a will under Texas law.  A beneficiary does not have the power to petition for the court for modification or reformation.

When Can The Court Order Modification Or Reformation Of a Will?

The Court needs a reason to order modification or reformation of a will under Texas law.  Section 255.451 includes several reasons, including:

  • To make the administration of the estate more efficient
  • Carry out tax objectives
  • Assist a beneficiary in getting government benefits
  • Correct a scrivener’s error if clear and convincing evidence of the testator’s intent is presented

All modification or reformation of a will must be done with the overarching objective to conform to the testator’s probable intent, and is an exercise of the court’s discretion.  Texas Estates Code § 255.452.

Does The Personal Representative Have a Duty To Seek Modification or Reformation Of a Will?

No, the Texas personal representative has no duty to seek modification or reformation of a testator’s will, regardless of how obvious or likely it is that the court would grant reformation or modification.  The personal representative also has no duty to inform beneficiaries about the availability of a will reformation or modification.

What Is The Deadline To Modify or Reform a Will Under Texas Law?

4 years.  The deadline to seek judicial modification or reformation of a will is four years from the date that the will is admitted to probate.  See Deadlines and Timelines In Texas Probate.

Read Texas Appeals Court Affirms Reformation of Unambiguous Texas Will Based On Cut-And-Paste Mistake.

Texas Estates Code Section 255.451: Circumstances Under Which Will May Be Modified Or Reformed

Texas Estates Code § 255.451 governs the circumstances under which a will may be modified or reformed and is set forth below:

(a) Subject to the requirements of this section, on the petition of a personal representative, a court may order that the terms of the will be modified or reformed, that the personal representative be directed or permitted to perform acts that are not authorized or that are prohibited by the terms of the will, or that the personal representative be prohibited from performing acts that are required by the terms of the will, if:

(1) modification of administrative, nondispositive terms of the will is necessary or appropriate to prevent waste or impairment of the estate’s administration;

(2) the order is necessary or appropriate to achieve the testator’s tax objectives or to qualify a distributee for government benefits and is not contrary to the testator’s intent;  or

(3) the order is necessary to correct a scrivener’s error in the terms of the will, even if unambiguous, to conform with the testator’s intent.

(a-1) A personal representative seeking to modify or reform a will under this section must file a petition on or before the fourth anniversary of the date the will was admitted to probate.

(b) An order described in Subsection (a)(3) may be issued only if the testator’s intent is established by clear and convincing evidence.

(c) Chapter 123, Property Code, applies to a proceeding under Subsection (a) that involves a charitable trust.

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