Court of Appeals of Texas, Second District, Fort Worth
COUNTY COURT AT LAW NO. 2 OF WISE COUNTY TRIAL COURT NO.
SUDDERTH, C.J.; KERR and PITTMAN, JJ.
MEMORANDUM OPINION  ON
SUDDERTH CHIEF JUSTICE.
Ronald Neal executed a will in which he bequeathed his
personal property to his niece, Valorie Jean White. That much
is undisputed. The determinative question in this appeal is
whether under the will, Larry also devised his real property
to Valorie. We conclude that he did not. We therefore reverse
the part of the trial court's final judgment that awarded
Larry's real property to Valorie and determined that no
part of Larry's estate passed by intestacy, and we render
judgment that Larry's real property passed through
intestacy to his heirs.
died in 2014. Upon his death, Gary Neal, Larry's brother
and his estate's executor, filed an application to
probate Larry's 2009 will. The will contained the
I, Larry Ronald Neal, . . . do hereby make . . . this to be
my Last Will and Testament . . . .
I direct my Executor to pay my judicially enforceable debts,
funeral expenses[, ] and the administrative expenses of my
estate as soon after my death as practicable. . . .
I do give and bequeath to my niece, Valorie Jean (Neal)
White, all my personal effects and all my tangible personal
property, including automobiles, hangars, aircraft, fly-drive
vehicles, patents, companies, and all other things owned by
me at the time of my death, including cash on hand in bank
accounts in my own name, or companies['] names, or
securities, or other intangibles.
. . . .
I hereby grant to my Executor the continuing absolute,
discretionary power to deal with any property, real or
personal, held in my estate or in any trust, as freely as I
might in the handling of my own affairs. Such power may be
exercised independently and without the prior or subsequent
approval of any court or judicial authority, and no person
dealing with the Executor shall be required to inquire into
the propriety of any of their actions. . . . I hereby grant
to my Executor the following specific powers and authority in
addition to . . . powers conferred by law:
A[.] To make distributions in cash or specific property, real
or personal . . . .
B. To sell, transfer[, ] or convey, at public or private
sale[, ] . . . any property, real or personal, . . .
constituting a part or all of my estate . . . .
C. To compromise and settle claims in favor of or against my
D. To hold and exercise any and all powers . . . conferred by
September 2015, the trial court signed an order that admitted
the will to probate, appointed Gary as independent executor,
and directed the court's clerk to issue letters
next month, Appellant Lori Neal Freitag, Larry's
daughter, filed a petition for a declaratory judgment under
chapter 37 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies
Code. In her pleading, Lori contended that
Article II of Larry's will entitled Valorie to receive
Larry's personal property only. Lori argued that the will
did not dispose of Larry's real property and that the
real property therefore passed by intestacy to her and to
Larry's two sons. She also pleaded that Gary, as
independent executor, was taking the opposite position.
filed an answer to Lori's petition and, through a
counterclaim, also sought declaratory relief. He argued that
because Article II of the will gave Valorie "all other
things owned" by Larry, the will entitled Valorie to
receive Larry's real property. He also contended that
Article IV supported his interpretation of Article II because
Article IV gave him the authority to sell and manage
"real or personal" property. He asserted that
Larry's will "unambiguously contemplate[d]
disposition of the entirety" of Larry's estate.
trial court held a bench trial on the parties' requests
for declaratory relief. After the trial, the court rendered
judgment in Gary's favor. The court found that all of