In McDaniel v. Meador, parties sued for declaratory relief regarding whether a granddaughter was a beneficiary of a will. No. 01-18-00041-CV, 2019 Tex. App. LEXIS 1315 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] February 21, 2019, no pet. history). The will stated that the testator left her estate: “(a) To those of my children (JASPER “LEE” MCDANIEL, JR., AND ANDREW DOUGLAS MCDANIEL) who survive me and to the issue who survive me of those of my children who shall not survive me, in equal shares per stirpes.” Id. It also provided that if no issued survived her then she gave her estate to those who would take if the testator died intestate. One son predeceased the grandmother, and the son’s daughter, the granddaughter, claimed to be a beneficiary and entitled to a third of the estate. The trial court determined that the granddaughter was a beneficiary and was entitled to a third of the grandmother’s estate. The granddaughter’s loving uncles appealed.
The court of appeals described the rules for construing a will:
“The cardinal rule for construing a will is to ascertain the true intent of the [testatrix] as expressed in the will.” The “objective in construing a will is to discern and effectuate the testatrix’s intent as reflected in the instrument as a whole.” We ascertain the testatrix’s intent from the language within the four corners of the will. Courts “determine intent by construing the instrument holistically and by harmonizing any apparent conflicts or inconsistencies in the language.” We must focus on the meaning of the words the testatrix actually used rather than speculate about what she may have intended to write.
Id. The uncles contended that, because they survived the testator, the will designates only them as the beneficiaries of the residuary estate. The court of appeals disagreed:
When viewed holistically and harmonizing any apparent conflicts, we agree with Mandy that Frances did not intend to limit the term “children” to Jasper and Andrew in the second beneficiary clause… Frances defined who her children were in the opening provision of the Will, listing all three of her children: Jasper, James, and Andrew. By way of the parenthetical, Frances, at most, expressed her intent that she did not want James to be a beneficiary should he survive her. However, that same limitation was not placed on the term “children” in the second beneficiary clause to indicate that Frances did not intend the term “children” to include James in accordance with the definition in the Will’s opening paragraph. The Will contains no other indication that Frances intended to disinherit her granddaughter, Mandy, if James predeceased Frances… Even when given its ordinary meaning, the term “children” would also include James. And, under well-established rules of probate law, James would also be included as one of Frances’s children. The only place in the Will indicating that the “children” was intended to have a meaning different than the meaning ascribed in the opening paragraph or under the common, ordinary definition is the first beneficiary clause. Further, defining the term “children” in the second beneficiary clause to exclude James from that definition, and as a result exclude Mandy from being a beneficiary, would give rise to a potential conflict with Paragraph 2(b), which provides, “If no issue of mine survives me, I give my residuary estate to those who would take from me as if I were then to die-without a will . . . .” Paragraph 2(b) makes no exception for Frances’s issue descending through James. Thus, we read Paragraph 2(b) to affirm that Frances intended Mandy to be a beneficiary if she survived Frances.
Id. The court of appeals affirmed the trial court’s judgment for the granddaughter.