The Herald Banner, Greenville, TX

December 11, 2012

Check insurance before disputing ticket validity

Ask An Attorney

Special to the Herald-Banner

— I was pulled over by a state trooper in October, and he gave me a no-insurance ticket. I had an insurance card, but it did not include the vehicle because it was new, and it also had my maiden name on it instead of married name which is on my license. The clerk at the JP’s office said I still had to pay the ticket because it was a violation to not change your insurance card. I spoke to a police office friend who said the opposite of that. Which one is right? — Anonymous, Caddo Mills

The police office is probably correct, unless you left out some important facts.

First, you need to get a new card with your married name, and ensure that it shows your insurance was in place on the date you received the ticket. Next, you need to make sure that you were actually covered to drive other vehicles. Most policies have a grace period for new vehicles.  

Whether you will be required to pay the ticket will depend on the insurance policy requirements for new cars, and whether or not you were “excluded” as a driver. The best way to verify these facts is through a phone call to your agent prior to providing the insurance information to the court.

The clerk is wrong to automatically assume that you are not covered simply because the vehicle you were driving does not appear on the I.D. card. Many policies cover their owners regardless of whose vehicle they are driving. Again, the best thing to do is to verify coverage through the insurance company prior to speaking with the clerk.

I know people who have relied on what a misinformed clerk told them, and paid an insurance fine when they were actually covered and the violation should have been dismissed. As a result, they were needlessly convicted, incurred license suspensions and were required to pay hundreds of dollars of surcharges.

One of my family members filed a fake will and claimed it was signed by my recently-deceased sister. The will leaves all of my sister’s belongings — which are worth several hundred thousand dollars — to this relative, with whom she lived for the last two months of her life. It looks like my sister’s signature on the will, but she would never have left her entire estate to this relative. What can I do to fight it, and what is the deadline for fighting it? — Name Withheld, Greenville

Under the Texas Probate Code, a will must generally be contested within two years of the date it was admitted to probate. In your situation, you should seek out the witnesses and notary public who signed the will, and determine whether they will testify that your sister had full capacity to sign the will on the signature date. (This might be impossible to do if it was a handwritten, or “holographic” will, and that type of will is not addressed here.)

Depending on their answers, you may be able to fight probate of the will by claiming that your sister lacked capacity (i.e., didn’t understand what she was signing) or that your relative exercised “undue influence” over your sister. Both of these are difficult to establish, and will require a competent attorney.

While you have two years to file a contest, if you can manage to get it filed before the court opens administration, you may be able to shift the burden of proof to the other side. That is an extremely useful tool in a probate fight.

If you have a brief legal question on any topic, please forward it to

Daniel Ray is a Greenville, Texas attorney licensed in all Texas courts. His firm, Scott, Money & Ray, PLLC, represents the City of Greenville, Hunt County, and many other public and private North Texas entities. His practice emphasis is civil litigation, wills and trusts and real estate.

This article is intended for entertainment and educational purposes as well as to give the reader general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice.

 By reading this article you agree that you understand that there is no attorney-client relationship between you and the author or publisher. The article should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your area.