Selecting the Probate Court With Jurisdiction

To file the probate application, one must first decide which court has jurisdiction and which court should handle the probate court.  There are several different types of courts that can handle probate matters. Before picking the court, one must first determine which Texas county can hear the matter and then find the court that has jurisdiction over probate matters in that county.

The Texas County to Start With

The choice of what county to start the court proceedings in is relatively straightforward in cases where the decedent resided in and all property and parties are located in the same county.  But what if the decedent lived in one county (or outside of Texas), died in another Texas county, and had property in yet another Texas county?

There are a number of factors and rules to consider, but generally, Texas law provides jurisdiction for the courts in the following counties:

  1. If the decedent was a resident of Texas, the probate proceedings will generally be brought in a court in the county in which the decedent resided at the time of death.  
  2. If the decedent did not have a domicile or residence in Texas but died in Texas, the probate proceedings will generally be brought in the county where the decedent’s property is located or the county where the decedent died.  
  3. If the decedent was not a resident and died outside of Texas, the probate proceedings will generally be brought in the county where the decedent’s next of kin resides.  
  4. Failing these options, the probate proceedings will generally be brought in the county where the decedent’s property is located.

Once the county is selected, the next step is to find the court within that jurisdiction that can hear the probate case.  

Texas Courts that Hear Probate Cases

There are four different courts that handle probate cases in Texas.  More than one court may have concurrent jurisdiction. This means that you may have a choice as to what court to use.  

The most populous counties all have statutory probate courts.  For example, in Houston, Harris County, there are four statutory probate courts.  These specialized probate courts use the name “probate court” in their name. If the county has one or more statutory probate courts, these courts will typically handle the probate cases.   

The more populous counties in Texas also have one or more county courts at law.  If the county does not have a statutory probate court but has a county court at law, the county court at law will typically handle the probate cases.  In the absence of a statutory probate court or a county court at law, the constitutional county courts may hear probate cases. It should be noted that the limit on the amount in controversy that applies to constitutional county courts and county courts at law does not apply in probate matters.

District courts can also consider probate proceedings in some instances.  This is not all that common.

What are Probate Proceedings?

There are a number of different matters probate courts can hear.  This includes:

  1. The probate of wills.
  2. Issuance of letters testamentary and letters of administration.
  3. Heirship determinations, small estate affidavits, community-property administration, or homestead or family allowances.
  4. Actions related to the probate of a will or estate administration.
  5. Will construction lawsuits.

These courts can also hear matters related to probate proceedings.  The Texas Estates Code defines “matters related to probate proceeding.”  This definition includes many actions and claims that are related to the decedent or the estate.

Once the court is selected, the next step is to submit the probate application.  We’ll address this topic next.  Click here to continue reading.  >>>>

Hire an Experienced Probate Attorney

Do you need help with a probate matter in Houston-metro area or the surrounding communities?  We are experienced probate attorneys who represent clients with sensitive probate matters.  If so, please give us a call us at (281) 219-9090 or use the contact form below to see how we can help.