Not everybody knows that Texas law requires that a person who has custody of the will of somebody who has died "deliver the will to the clerk of the court that has jurisdiction of the testator's estate" on receiving notice of the person's death. This isn't filing the will for probate, it's just delivering the will to the court clerk. In counties without a statutory probate court, that means the county clerk's office, which is in charge of records for the county court. You would think that one of the people who SHOULD know of the "deliver the will to the clerk" requirement is - well, the clerk!
Not so much...we heard recently from the daughter of a client for whom we had drafted a will that the client had died. After discussing his estate, we concluded that there was no reason to probate the will. Although the will didn't need to be probated, Estates Code Section 252.201 still required that it be delivered to the clerk. Because we didn't want to charge her for delivering the will, we sent her down to her father's county of residence southeast of San Antonio (a county that doesn't have a statutory probate court) with instructions on how to deliver her father's will to the clerk. It was not a short drive. When she got there and tried to deliver the will to the clerk, the deputy clerk informed her that they only take wills of living people for safekeeping (that's Estates Code Section 252.001), they don't take delivery of wills for dead people. Our client's daughter, because she wasn't willing to press and ask to speak with a supervisor, wasted a trip (well, the bluebonnets were beautiful, but you know what I mean) and still has the original will.
Now, to the title of this piece: In Texas, a county clerk, a county judge and a justice of the peace don't need to know anything about the law to get elected. They just need to get enough votes to get into office. Although most of these public servants are conscientious and have the interests of their constituents at heart, the training they provide their employees is sometimes woefully lacking. I think that's what happened in this case - the deputy clerk wasn't being uncooperative, she just hadn't been properly trained. One of the morals of this story is that if you think the public employee you're dealing with is mistaken, you may well be right! The other moral is: Always ask for clarification, always get a name, and don't be afraid to ask (politely) for a supervisor.
Musings, observations, the occasional whineage and some funny stuff.