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Damages Suit Against Executor Must be in Probate Court

In In re Perkins, 10-17-00311-CV (Tex. App.—Waco 2017), the appeals court considered whether an estate beneficiary can bring suit in district court for damages against an executor while the probate administration is pending in the county court.

Facts & Procedural History

The facts and procedural history are as follows:

The case involved a probate dispute between two sisters. The dispute during the probate administration. The estate was being probated in the County Court.

The dispute involved real estate owned by the estate. One sister wanted to sell the real estate and the other wanted to keep the it.

As part of the dispute, the county court removed one sister as independent executor and appointed the other sister. It also ordered that the property be partitioned and sold.

While the sale was pending but before the probate matter was closed, the sister who was now the independent executor for the estate brought suit against the other sister for damages. She brought suit in the district court. The district court concluded that it had jurisdiction to hear the damages claim, which is the subject considered by the appeals court.

Probate Court Has Jurisdiction Over Suit For Damages

The appeals court was asked to determine whether the district court or county court had jurisdiction to hear the damages claim.

The appeals court reviewed the Texas Estates Code, which says that the scope of the probate proceeding includes “matters related to probate proceeding” including “an action against a personal representative or former personal representative arising out of the representative’s performance of the duties of a personal representative.”

The appeals court also considered Section 32.001(a), which says:

All probate proceedings must be filed and heard in a court exercising original probate jurisdiction. The court exercising original probate jurisdiction also has jurisdiction of all matters related to the probate proceeding as specified in Section 31.002 for that type of court.

Texas law says that the probate courts, or if the county does not have a probate court, the county court has original probate jurisdiction.

Given these rules, the appeals court concluded that the county court was the proper venue for bringing a damages claim. The court ordered the district court to abate the proceeding pending the closure of the probate matter in the county court.

Do you need help with a probate matter in Houston or the surrounding area?  We are Houston probate attorneys.  We help clients navigate the probate process.   Call today for a free confidential consultation, 281-219-9090.  

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