Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Unthank v. Rippstein case brief

Unthank v. Rippstein case brief summary
386 S.W.2d 134 (1964)

Petitioner estate executors challenged a decision of the Court of Civil Appeals (Texas), which reversed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of petitioners, in respondent donee's claim against the estate which sought a declaratory judgment that petitioners had to pay obligations of decedent under a written promise to pay obligations as they matured.


Shortly before his death, decedent wrote a letter to respondent donee, in which he acknowledged that he wold send her monthly payments for a period of five years, even in the event of his death. Respondent first attempted to probate the writing as a codicil of decedent's will, and then filed an action for payments already matured, as well as having sought a declaratory judgment in the remaining payment. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of petitioner estate executors, and the appellate court reversed, finding the establishment of a voluntary trust, with legal title in decedent's heirs.


  • On appeal, the court determined that the writing was insufficient to establish a voluntary trust, because a voluntary trust would have divested decedent of the exercise of further dominion. 
  • To so construe the writing would have been in contradiction with the language in the writing itself, and therefore no reasonable implication could give rise to a voluntary trust. 
  • The court held that the writing was merely a promise to make a series of gifts in the future, and was therefore unenforceable, and the court affirmed the judgment of the trial court.

The court reversed the decision of the court of appeals, and affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of petitioner estate executors, holding that the written promise by decedent to pay respondent donee's obligations as they matured did not establish a trust, was not a will, was not a gift, and was not supported by consideration, and therefore was not enforceable against the estate.

Suggested Study Aids For Wills, Trusts & Estate Law

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