Mrs. Rice's will, 1896
Elizabeth Rice's health began to fail in the early months of 1896. The Rices moved to Houston in April 1896, hoping the warm weather would improve Elizabeth's condition. On June 1, 1896 Mrs. Rice drew up a new will without her husband's knowledge naming Orren Holt, a Houston lawyer, as her executor. The will claimed that the Rices were residents of Texas (a community property state) and Elizabeth could bequeath half of the Rice estate as she saw fit.
Rice moved his wife Elizabeth to a hotel in Waukesha, Wisconsin shortly after her new will was signed. Elizabeth died on July 24, 1896 in Waukesha. Mr. Rice returned to New York City. In September 1896 Orren Holt, Elizabeth's executor, filed to probate Elizabeth's last will. Captain Baker, Rice's lawyer, informed Rice of the situation and a court battle began over the will. Rice disputed his wife's claim that she had been a Texas resident since this division of their estate would greatly decrease what was available for the institute.
During the battle over the estate two lawyers became involved with the proceedings and would end up greatly influencing the final results. Captain Baker, a trustee of the Rice Institute, served as William Rice's lawyer. Albert Patrick, the other lawyer, was hired by Orren Holt in 1898 to investigate the residency question in New York City. There, Patrick met Charlie Jones, Rice's valet. The two spent a great deal of time together and slowly a criminal plan was formed.