Southeast Texas Record

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Appeals court rules in favor of woman's life partner in inheritance dispute

Lawsuits

By Solange DeLisle | Feb 19, 2020

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HOUSTON — An appeals court in Texas has sided with a deceased woman's life partner, giving her a large portion of her late-partner's property.  

In an opinion issued in early February, Justice Gordan Goodman in the Court of Appeals for the First District of Texas upheld the probate court's decision in favor of Arabia Vargas.

The argument stemmed from a dispute regarding Debra E. Hunt's will. Hunt left all her family pictures, furnishings and other keepsakes inherited from her grandparents and parents to her sister, Tracy Mitchell. Vargas was left the remainder of Hunt's household and personal property. What was left of her property at the time of Hunt's death was divided 50-50 between Mitchell and her previous life partner's daughter and stepdaughter, Andrea Vasquez and Lina Hollis.

At the time of her death, Hunt's estate was valued at more than $665,000 with a little less than $230,000 in bank accounts and a house worth $374,000.

Mitchell and Vasquez disagreed on the extent of Hunt's endowment to Vargas. They believed intangible personal property, such as the money in her bank accounts, should fall under the will's residuary clause. Vargas maintained that Hunt left her all of her personal property, other than the specified family-related items.  

Both sides went forward with the argument in probate court, which ruled in favor of Vargas. Mitchell and Vasquez appealed.  

The appeals court had to decide whether Hunt meant to leave all property, including the money in the bank accounts, to her life partner. In the end, after reviewing the will and its language, the court decided that was the case. 

"Hunt's bequest of 'all my remaining household and personal property' is unambiguous – it conveys to Vargas all of Hunt's personal property other than the family-related items," Goodman wrote.

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