One generally has to be an “interested party” to participate in the probate process in Texas. If an interested party in an estate is distributed property in full satisfaction of their interest, are they no longer an interested party? The court addresses this in Estate of Daniels, No. 06-18-00049-CV (Tex. App.–Texarkana 2019).
Facts & Procedural History
The decedent died without a will. His wife filed an application to be appointed as the personal representative. His mother also filed a competing application to be appointed.
The probate court found that the estate consisted of community property that would pass to the decedent’s wife and separate property 50 percent would pass to the decedent’s wife and 50 percent to the group including the decedent’s mother. The separate property consisted of real estate the decedent purchased prior to marriage, but which was the residence and homestead of the decedent and his wife at the time of his death.
The probate court granted temporary administration with the wife serving pending the resolution of the contested matters. The probate court allowed the separate property to be set aside as property exempt from the estate administration.
The wife then asked that the proceedings be dismissed, as the decedent’s mother was no longer an interested party in the estate as there was no property to distribute to the mother.
Who is an Interested Party?
One generally has to be an “interested party” to have standing to apply for letters of administration or to challenge letters of administration.
The Texas Estates Code defines the term “interested party” as “an heir, devisee, spouse, creditor, or any other having a property right in or claim against an estate being administered.” The court in this case noted the “or” in this definition. According to the court, one can be a heir, etc. or a creditor.
When is the Interested Party Determined?
Assuming one is an interested party at the time the matter commences, but is not later an interested party, do they lose their rights? Put another way, at what time in the proceeding do you apply the rule to determine whether a person is an interested party?
The decedent’s mother argued that she was an interested party and the commencement of the case and, as such, was still an interested party.
The decedent’s wife argued that the mother was no longer an interested party after the property was set aside from the estate.
The appeals court concluded that the definition is applied at the outset of the suit. Thus, according to the appeal court, an interested party does not lose their rights as interested parties later, if they turn out to no longer be interested parties.
This means that the decedent’s mother could still be appointed as the personal representative, if the court so chose, even if they were not to receive property from the estate given that the property they would have received was distributed prior to the appointment.
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