Incident to Estate

Columbia Rio Grande Regional Hosp. v. Stover, 17 S.W.3d 387 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi 2000, no pet.).


Creditor provided Decedent with medical services and obtained a hospital lien. After a complicated collection process involving several lawsuits and settlements, Creditor asserts that a probate court order adjudicating Creditor’s claim is void because the court lacked jurisdiction. Because Decedent’s estate was being handled by an independent administrator, Creditor maintains that the court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate Creditor’s claims under Probate Code § 145(h). Executrix contends, however, that Probate Code §§ 5 & 5A allow for court intervention where the Code specifically provides for action in the probate court.

The appellate court held that the statutory county court had jurisdiction. Creditor’s claim was against the estate, estate assets would be used to pay the claim, and the outcome of the case would have a direct bearing on the distribution of Decedent’s estate. Accordingly, Creditor’s claim was incident to the estate and the trial court’s order was not void for lack of jurisdiction. In addition, because Creditor did not appeal the order under Probate Code § 5(f), Creditor may not collaterally attack the court’s order.

Moral: Courts continue to interpret the jurisdiction of probate courts broadly. Even if a party believes that the court lacks jurisdiction to issue an order, the party should protect itself by filing a timely appeal in case jurisdiction is upheld.