Texas Court of Appeals

In In the Estate of Johnson, an applicant to be an independent administrator appealed a court’s decision to not appoint him due to his being unsuitable. No. 02-20-00133-CV, 2021 Tex. App. LEXIS 7138 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth August 26, 2021, no pet. history). The court of appeals first discussed the standard of review of orders finding a person unsuitable:

A probate court’s order finding a person is unsuitable to serve as executor is reviewed under an abuse-of-discretion standard. When applying an abuse-of-discretion standard, the normal sufficiency-of-the-evidence review is part of the abuse-of-discretion review and not an independent ground for reversal. The probate court abuses its discretion if its actions are unreasonable or arbitrary or without reference to any guiding rules or principles. “Under an abuse of discretion standard of review, we must make an independent inquiry of the entire record to determine if the trial court abused its discretion and are not limited to reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support the findings of fact made.”


Continue Reading Court Affirms Decision That Executor Applicant Was Unsuitable For That Position

In In re Estate of Clark, a trial court entered an order allowing a family allowance for the decedent’s wife. No. 02-20-00211-CV, 2021 Tex. App. LEXIS 5685 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth July 15, 2021, no pet. history). After the wife was removed as the administrator of the estate, the court entered another order ending the family allowance.
Continue Reading Court’s Order Ending Family Allowance To Decedent’s Wife Was Reversed Due To A Lack Of Notice To The Wife

In Moore v. Estate of Moore, a decedent’s wife claimed that she had an interest in an oil and gas lease formerly owned by her deceased husband. No. 07-20-00019-CV, 2021 Tex. App. LEXIS 6142 (Tex. App.—Amarillo July 30, 2021, no pet. history). The decedent’s children were the trustees of a trust that was the residuary beneficiary of the decedent’s will. If the decedent still owned the mineral interests at the time of his death, the trust would inherit that interest. After the decedent died, the wife and the trustees settled their dispute and entered into a settlement agreement that provided: “The Parties agree that each shall keep and own such real and personal property as they currently possess without any challenge of any other party.” Id. Later, the trustees sued the wife, alleging she breached her contractual duty to transfer the mineral interest to the trust, was liable under a theory of money had and received, and breached her fiduciary duties. After a jury trial, the trial court entered a judgment for the trustees, and held that the mineral interest belonged to the trust. The wife appealed.
Continue Reading Court Holds That Trust Owned Mineral Interests And Not The Settlor’s Wife

In Peek v. Mayfield, a beneficiary sued a trustee for breach of fiduciary duty. No. 02-20-00107-CV, 2021 Tex. App. LEXIS 6080 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth July 29, 2021, no pet.). After a bench trial, the district court found that the trustee breached his fiduciary duties, removed him, and entered an order appointing a receiver and

In In the Interest of Riley Family Revocable Trust, a trustee filed suit for a declaration regarding who takes in the distribution of remaining trust property. No. 13-20-00084-CV 2021 Tex. App. LEXIS 5839 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi July 22, 2021, no pet. history). In article two, section 2.01, the Trust states:

Upon the death of both Trustors, the primary residuary beneficiaries of this Trust are the children of the Trustors, BARBARA JEAN RILEY JONES, BRENDA JUNE RILEY BRAGG, STEPHEN MARCUS RILEY, and ELAINE RILEY, and their descendants… For purposes of this Trust Agreement, the terms “issue” or “descendant” shall not include any child adopted by a grandchild of the Trustors.


Continue Reading Court Reversed Trial Court On Interpretation Of Trust Regarding Per Stirpes Versus Per Capita Distributions

The owners of a corporation may enter into shareholder agreements that address and resolve many disputes. For example, the Texas Supreme Court noted: “Shareholders of closely-held corporations may address and resolve such difficulties by entering into shareholder agreements that contain buy-sell, first refusal, or redemption provisions that reflect their mutual expectations and agreements.” Ritchie v. Rupe, 443 S.W.3d 856, 871 (Tex. 2014).
Continue Reading Shareholder Agreements Are Very Powerful In Texas: Parties Should Carefully Review Those Agreements Before Obtaining Stock In A Corporation

In JPMorgan Chase Bank, N.A. v. Campbell, a member of a limited partnership sued other partners, including a trustee of a trust, to dissolve the partnership. No. 09-20-00161-CV, 2021 Tex. App. LEXIS 5001 (Tex. App.—Beaumont June 24, 2021, no pet. history). The trustee was listed as a nominal defendant, and the trustee filed claims seeking declaratory relief regarding it not having to participate in an arbitration proceeding. The plaintiffs then filed additional claims against the trustee including breach of fiduciary duty and for modification of the trust. The trustee filed a special appearance regarding those new claims, which the trial court denied. The trustee appealed.

The court of appeals first held that the trustee did not waive its right to object to personal jurisdiction by answering the original suit and seeking declaratory relief. The court noted that “Rule 120a allows a party to file a special appearance in any severable action of a lawsuit.” Id.  The court held: “the trust modification claim is a severable action, and that JPMorgan did not waive its challenge to the trial court’s exercise of personal jurisdiction over it by appearing in and seeking declaratory relief in the underlying arbitration suit.” Id.
Continue Reading Texas Court Does Not Have Personal Jurisdiction Over A Trustee Of A Trust With Texas Timber Rights

In Lawrence v. Bailey, a son killed his parents with a sledge hammer. No. 01-19-00799-CV, 2021 Tex. App. LEXIS 4716 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] June 15, 2021, no pet. history). The son was a named beneficiary of the father’s life insurance policy. The insurance company filed an interpleader action regarding the life insurance proceeds. The trial court awarded those to the father’s estate, and the father’s brother then filed a motion for new trial. The brother alleged that under the slayer statute, that he was entitled to the proceeds. The trial court denied the motion, and the brother appealed.

The court of appeals first held that the brother had standing to seek a declaration regarding the ownership of the insurance proceeds. The court noted that the brother argued:

Under the Texas Slayer Statute, a beneficiary of a life insurance policy or contract forfeits the beneficiary’s interest in the policy or contract if the beneficiary is a principal or an accomplice in willfully bringing about the death of the insured.” See Tex. Ins. Code. § 1103.151. He pointed out that, “[i]f there is no contingent beneficiary entitled to receive the proceeds of a life insurance policy or contract, the nearest relative of the insured is entitled to receive the proceeds.” Id. § 1103.152(c).


Continue Reading Relative Had Standing To Assert Slayer Statute And Declaration Regarding Rights To Insurance Proceeds Over Victim’s Estate

In Bird v. Carl C. Anderson, a trust beneficiary sued a defendant for usurping a trustee’s role and breaching fiduciary duties as a de facto trustee. No. 03-21-00140-CV, 2021 Tex. App. LEXIS 5036 (Tex. App.—Austin June 24, 2021, no pet. history). The plaintiff complained that the defendant “reinvested the proceeds into ‘high-risk and non-diversified investments that exposed the trusts and [their] beneficiaries to inappropriate levels of risk,’ causing the trusts to substantially diminish in value; distributed assets to himself, Jennifer, and perhaps others to the Foundation’s detriment; and had Jennifer sign all of the transactional documents in her role as trustee even though she was and is incapacitated.” Id. The defendant filed a motion to dismiss under Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 91, arguing that there was no de facto trustee status in Texas. The trial court denied the motion, found that “Texas law recognizes the legal capacity of ‘de facto trustee’ in the context of the administration of private trusts,” but certified the issue for permissive appeal.
The court of appeals declined to accept the petition for interlocutory appeal.
Continue Reading Court Discusses De Facto Trustee Status In Texas

In Trinh v. Cent. River Healthcare Group, a brother sued his sister over the management of a PLLC. No. 03-19-00393-CV, 2021 Tex. App. LEXIS 4542 (Tex. App.—Austin June 9, 2021, no pet. history). The brother claimed that the sister promised to pay him a salary, and she did not. The court of appeals affirmed