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When Can a Judge Transfer a Case to Probate Court?

After a loved one dies, their property must go through probate court in order to be transferred to the rightful heirs. If you are named as the executor in the will, you will be responsible for ensuring that the process goes smoothly. Here’s what you need to know about transferring a case to probate court.

Legal Terminology

Writ of prohibition: prohibits a lower court from taking action due to a lack of jurisdiction

Motion for Contempt: allows the court to impose sanctions upon a party (jail time, monetary payments, attorney’s fees)

Probate Case

Henry v. LaGrone, 842 S.W.2d 324, 327 (Tex. App. – Amarillo 1992, no writ).

Facts & Procedural History

In 1988, Vernie Rawlings, a mentally incompetent elderly woman, was issued two guardians by the probate court: John and Katie Liebriech, Ms. Rawlings’ grandson and his wife. This judgment also included the creation of a trust with all Ms. Rawlings’ property, and John R. Frantz was designated as its trustee. At this time, the court found that Ms. Rawlings’ estate did not require guardianship.

In 1990, Mr. Frantz informed Ms. Rawlings’ nursing home that she no longer had the funds to pay for her stay. The probate court appointed Thomas J. Henry, an attorney, to investigate Mr. Frantz’s claim, and he subsequently recommended that Mr. Frantz be removed as trustee (the trust had not been depleted completely, and a possible violation of fiduciary duties had occurred). In 1991, the court ordered Mr. Frantz to pay Mr. Henry, but this was ignored by Mr. Frantz. The court filed motions for contempt, and Mr. Frantz included a motion to transfer venues in his response, which was denied.

Later in 1991, Mr. Henry filed an application for the appointment of a guardian to Ms. Rawlings’ estate, and was later designated as its guardian. Mr. Frantz then filed an original petition for declaratory judgment in the 69th District Court of Hartley County, which included a request for approval of the trust agreement and enable item transfers from Ms. Rawlings’ estate to Mr. Frantz. In 1992, Mr. Henry and the Liebriechs filed a motion to transfer venue back to Tarrant County, but this was denied by the court. The Tarrant County probate court issued a judgment in favor of Mr. Henry and the Liebriechs, ordering that the 69th District Court judgment action be moved to the probate court, along with its documents. Mr. Frantz filed a writ of prohibition in the 69th District Court, which was granted.

Mr. Henry and the Liebriechs (Relators) appealed to the Court of Appeals to obtain relief against the 69th District Court judge and clerk (Respondents). Relators sought the issuance of a writ of mandamus, which would instruct the 69th District Court judge to remove his writ of prohibition and for the clerk to transfer the declaratory judgment cause of action to Tarrant County Probate Court. The Court of Appeals held that the transfer of the declaratory judgment action by the Tarrant County probate judge was proper, and the 69th District Court’s writ of prohibition should not have been authorized (using Texas Probate Code, Section 5B).

Specifically, Respondents argued that (1) there was no estate pending before the statutory court, and (2) that cause of action was not related to the incident to the estate pending in the statutory probate court. For the first issue, the Court of Appeals stated that Mr. Henry’s filing for the appointment of a guardian over Ms. Rawlings’ estate within a statutory probate court made the estate pending before that court. For the second issue, the Court of Appeals stated that Mr. Frantz’s petition for declaratory judgment served as an action “for trial of the right of property incident to an estate,” and met this burden.

Main Considerations

When can the judge of a statutory probate court transfer a cause of action to his court?

When the four conditions stated under Texas Probate Code 5B are met, namely that:

  1. The court exercising the power to transfer a cause of action under section 5B is a statutory probate court.
  2. There is an estate pending in the statutory probate court.
  3. There is a cause of action pending in a district, county or statutory court; and
  4. That cause of action is appertaining to or incident to the estate pending in the statutory probate court.

The Takeaway

Henry v. LaGrone shows that, since the four conditions under Texas Probate Code 5B were met, the 69th District Court judge should have denied Mr. Frantz’s writ of prohibition, and transferred the declaratory judgment cause of action to the Tarrant County probate court. In other words, when 5B’s conditions are met, the transfer of a cause of action should likely be approved.

Do You Need to Hire an Experienced Probate Attorney in DFW?

Do you need help with a probate matter in DFW-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 512-273-7444 or use the contact form on our homepage to see how we can help.

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Related Questions

How to get a change of venue in court?

If you’re involved in a case in civil court and you’re not happy with the judge assigned to your case, you may be able to get a change of venue. This means that your case would be transferred to another court. If the case is moved to another court, you’ll have to meet all the deadlines for filing documents and appearing at hearings in your new county, city or state.

How to transfer court case to another county?

If you have a court case that is pending in one county, but you need to have the case transferred to another county, there are a few steps you need to take. You will need to file a motion with the court, and provide notice to the other parties in the case. The court will then set a hearing to decide whether or not to transfer the case. An attorney can help you with these steps.

How to transfer a court case to another state?

If you have a court case in one state and need to move it to another state, you’ll need to file a few documents and appear before a judge to make your request. The process is generally not too complicated, but there are a few things you’ll need to do to make sure everything goes smoothly.

What is a motion to transfer?

If you’re involved in a probate case, you may have heard the term “motion to transfer.” This is a legal procedure whereby a party to the probate case asks the court to transfer the case to another court. For example, someone might ask the court to transfer a probate case because they live in Fort Worth and the probate case is taking place in Tarrant County.

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