IN RE ESTATE OF BEN WILLIAM ROBERTSON, SR., Deceased
Appeal from the Probate Court No. 4 Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Case No. 462524
consists of Justices Keyes, Lloyd, and Kelly.
William Robertson filed an application to admit his
father's 1991 will to probate and to be appointed
executor, as named in the will. His sister, Ramona Mayon,
argued that the 1991 will had been revoked in 1993. After a
bench trial, the trial court found that the 1991 will had not
been revoked and admitted it to probate. Mayon appeals,
arguing that: (1) the will admitted to probate was not the
original; (2) Robertson did not prove that the will had not
been revoked; and (3) the judge made a "religious
reference" instead of explaining the legal basis for her
and Mayon have been estranged for years over a dispute
centered on inheritance of their mother's diamond ring.
After their father died in 2017, Robertson filed an
application to probate his 1991 will and for issuance of
letters testamentary. Robertson is both a beneficiary of his
father's will and the named executor. The will left the
decedent's entire estate to Robertson and named Mayon as
a contingent beneficiary if Robertson died before his father.
The will was signed by the decedent on May 9, 1991, and the
affidavit of execution and attestation recited that the
testator was "duly sworn," had signed voluntarily,
and was "of lawful age, of sound mind and under no undue
influence." The will was signed by three witnesses, and
it was notarized by Zenny Martinez.
filed a general denial, in which she asserted that her father
revoked the 1991 will with another will, which he showed her
in 1993. Robertson moved for traditional summary judgment,
and Mayon did not respond. At the summary-judgment hearing,
the trial court acknowledged that the will was a self-proving
will, but because the affidavit did not recite that the
witnesses were over the age of 14, the court denied the
motion for summary judgment.
attended the bench trial by telephone. The court acknowledged
that it had the original of the document offered for
admission to probate as the decedent's will. Zenny
Martinez, who notarized the will, testified that she
recognized the document, her signature, and her notary stamp.
She also recognized the signature of one of the witnesses
with whom she had worked for "a number of years."
She also testified that she checked the decedent's
identification and he was over the age of 18 when he signed
the will. She also testified that she and the witness with
whom she worked were also over the age of 18 when they signed
counsel acknowledged that because Mayon was appearing by
telephone, she was unable to see the actual documents
tendered in the courtroom. After noting that Mayon had copies
of the documents, he asked her whether she had "reviewed
what we filed with this Court-our application and the copy of
the Will?" Although she did not have a copy of the will
in front of her, she agreed it was authentic and that her
father had signed it. Mayon was aware of the 1991 will, which
her father executed due to concerns about her much-younger
brother obtaining a college education. Mayon testified that
when she saw her father in January 1993, he showed her
another will, which she saw him put in a safe in his home
office. According to Mayon, her father decided that because
Robertson was succeeding financially, he could "pay
[for] his own education." She had no documentary
evidence of the 1993 will's existence nor had she ever
discussed it with her father by email.
testified that he was the decedent's son, he was aware of
the will's existence in 1991, and his father gave him the
will before undergoing surgery in 2017. Robertson testified
that his father was over the age of 18 and of sound mind when
he signed the will. Robertson's father had possession of
the will from 1991 until delivering it to Robertson along
with other personal documents before his surgery in 2017.
Robertson's father told him that this was his last will
and testament. Robertson had no knowledge of a subsequent
will, and he testified that his father's will was never
revoked. Robertson said that his father cautioned him that
the will, which did not bequeath anything to Mayon, could
create problems within the family.
questioned Robertson about real property in Mansfield,
Louisiana that had passed from their grandmother to their
father. Mayon contended that this property was producing oil
or gas. Robertson testified that the property in Mansfield
was not part of their father's estate because he had
transferred most of it to him years earlier, before the
drilling and completion of a "proving well."
Mayon testified about her disappointment regarding the case
and her disbelief that her father had excluded her from the
will. She said: "My father loved me. There was never any
rancor or I have nothing else to say about this case.
It's heartfully sad to be here. And I appreciate so much
the Court's time in sorting this out, and I rest my
case." Before admitting the will to probate and
appointing Robertson executor of the estate, the trial court
offered some sympathetic comments about Mayon's
disappointment with the outcome of the proceeding and her
"sincere . . . hope" that despite the lack of an
inheritance, Mayon would "find that your father blessed
you in many other ways."
order probating the will and authorizing letters testamentary
to issue in favor of Robertson, the trial court made fact
findings. Relevant to this appeal, the trial court found that
the will offered for probate "was executed on May 9,
1991 with the formalities and solemnities and under the
circumstances required by law to make it a valid ...