Asked in Estate Planning and Probate for Texas

Q: Can a doctor inheit from his patient?

This is in Texas. A patient left her doctor a very considerable amount of money in the will. Is it legal for that doctor to inherit it?

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1 Lawyer Answer
Dillon B Norton
Dillon B Norton
  • Estate Planning Lawyer
  • Houston, TX
  • Licensed in Texas

A: Was the doctor a family member of the patient? Did the patient have any other family out there? If the patient was married in Texas and had no pre or post-marital agreement, then a large gift could give away more community property than the patient is entitled to give away. Was the doctor a witness who signed the will? What was the testator's intent behind giving the gift? Was the gift tied to a charitable purpose such as for "Doctor X's ongoing cancer research," for example? More importantly, was there any undue influence or coercion on behalf of the doctor? Was the doctor instrumental in assisting the patient with their will?

The answer depends on a lot of factors. I think it's more of ethical dilemma that the doctor faces, which depends on the doctor's situation and that of the testator's estate. There are poor doctors, and there are rich doctors just like there are poor attorneys and rich ones. If the testator was extremely wealthy with no family or heirs, no community property or enough to support a substantial gift from the testator's portion without engaging in fraud on the community, and the doctor is relatively poor then maybe. If the doctor is wealthy, and a substantial testamentary bequest could be considered fraud on the community by giving away his entire portion and some of their spouse's community property, then the doctor should probably disclaim the gift.

The doctor should use their judgment in light of potential ethical dilemmas. All parties should consult independent probate attorneys.

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