WACO, Texas (KWTX) – A McLennan County judge has denied a request by Texas music legend Willie Nelson’s nephew to dismiss a 2003 will from Billy Joe Shaver that purports to leave the songwriting icon’s estate to Shaver’s nephew .
County Court Judge Vik Deivanayagam’s ruling denying a motion for summary judgment from Fred Fletcher has lawyers on both sides predicting that the dispute over Shaver’s estate between Fletcher and Shaver’s nephew, Terry Dwayne Rogers, will be resolved by a McLennan County Jury.
The judge’s decision only affected Fletcher’s motion to dismiss the will that Rogers is seeking to enter into probate proceedings. Deivanayagam is expected to schedule a hearing on a similar motion by Rogers that seeks to declare invalid the handwritten will that Fletcher claims Shaver wrote in 2008 before witnesses in Austin who bequeathed Shaver’s estate to Fletcher.
Deivanayagam also appointed Robert Stem, a retired Marlin state district judge, as temporary estate administrator until the will dispute is resolved.
Waco attorney Andy McSwain, who represents Fletcher with attorney Lauren Olivarez, said the next step in the case will likely be a hearing on Rogers’ motion for summary judgment. “We’re going to move forward,” McSwain said. “We’re going to make a discovery, put him on trial and do what we have to do to prove willpower.”
Waco attorney Whitney Fanning, who represents Rogers with attorney Bruce Perryman, said he expects “this will end up in the hands of a jury.”
“If I have to leave all my material possessions to someone, I’m going to leave it to my family,” Fanning said. “I’m not going to leave it to a music director whose sole purpose is to make money. My client has a clean will left to his family members, that’s how we do it. It’s kind of like it’s happening. We’re taking care of our family rather than someone who’s not connected,” Fanning said.
Shaver, 81, a longtime Waco resident and Corsicana native, died in October 2020. He was a founding member of the Outlaw country music movement and was a well-known songwriter, producing hits such as ‘I’ m Just an Old Chunk of Coal”. , “Live Forever”, “Georgia on a Fast Train”, and “Wacko from Waco”.
While lawyers on both sides said they could not assess the current value of Shaver’s estate, it includes ongoing royalty checks from Shaver’s prolific songwriting career which he called his “money.” mailbox”.
Shaver left a will in 2000 that named his sister, Patricia, as executor and left everything to her. This will was replaced by another three years later, which left his estate to Rogers, his sister’s son. Both of these wills, and others written by Shaver over the years, were prepared by attorney Elizabeth Miller, who died in January 2021.
However, Fletcher, the son of Willie Nelson’s sister Bobbie, challenged the 2003 will by filing a 2008 handwritten document in which Shaver claims to name him as its sole beneficiary.
Deivanayagam’s decision comes after a May 20 hearing in which lawyers for both parties argued that their respective wills should be probated.
Fletcher, music producer and former drummer for Shaver’s band, founded Arlyn Studios in Austin in 1984. He and his uncle, Willie Nelson, co-founded Pedernales Records in 1999.
The 2008 will, witnessed by five other people, leaves Fletcher with Shaver’s home in South Waco, which was assessed at $122,030 on county tax rolls at the time of his death, as well as his songs, his car, his bank accounts and “everything of value”. .”
“I want him to continue to administer all my musical affairs and keep all profits,” reads a copy of the handwritten will.
McSwain told the judge during the hearing that Shaver told those present that he no longer wanted Rogers to be his beneficiary and that he was happy that Fletcher was continuing to run his music business.
Fletcher said he kept the original will, but it was apparently lost when he moved into his office the following year. Another witness said Shaver was in possession of the original.
Perryman argued that without the original handwritten will, it is effectively revoked.
“Our position is that this copy is not admissible as evidence,” Perryman said. “Therefore, they don’t have a case.”
Fannin asked why Shaver would change his long-standing practice of going to attorney Miller when he wanted to change his will.
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