Co-author Rusty Tucker

Estate of Trickett was a dispute over heirship of Claralyn Trickett, possibly the wife of Robert Bowerman (who must have forgotten to divorce his previous wife).

The descendents of Claralyn brought a quiet title action and an heirship proceeding against the heirs of Robert, who claimed an interest in his estate by virtue of his marriage to Claralyn. The trial court abated the quiet title suit while the parties fought over Claralyn’s heirship,

The result

The court agreed with the descendents of Robert that the general four year statute of limitations applied and that Claralyn’s heirs’ cause of action began to accrue in 1972 when she died. The claim was barred by limitations because they did not file suit until 2015, 42 years after she died and 38 years too late.

This was not an action to recover real property. If it were, the cause of action would not have been barred by limitations.  The real property issue was not presently before the court. The only requested relief was to have the court declare the identity of Claralyn’s heirs and the respective shares and interest of each in her estate.

Beware of constructive knowledge

Her heirs were aware of their lineage and apprised of Claralyn’s death when it happened in 1972. They had constructive notice of Claralyn’s royalty interest as early as 1964 when the deeds conveyed the property at issue. These deeds identified Claralyn as Robert’s spouse. Also, because of their marriage certificate, Robert and Claralyn’s marriage was presumptively valid.

Query: Assuming they did not have actual knowledge of her NPRI’s, were they savvy or inquisitive enough to inquire of the Official Public Records of Bexar and La Salle counties to see if Claralyn had left behind some NPRI’s? It appears that they did not.  That was unfortunate for them because recorded instruments impose constructive knowledge of their contents to the world.

But what about the Estates Code?

Section 202.0025 of the Texas Estates Code now reads, “Notwithstanding Section 16.051, Civil Practice and Remedies Code, a proceeding to declare heirship of a decedent may be brought at any time after the decedent’s death.” However, Section 202.0025 “applies only to the estate of decedents who die on or after January 1, 2014.”

The best musical interlude often is unrelated to the topic.