Estate Administration


Interfering With Final Judgment

Garza v. Rodriguez, 18 S.W.3d 694 (San Antonio 2000, no pet.).


Testatrix’s will granted Nephew a fee simple interest in her estate subject to a shifting executory interest in Sister and her heirs if Nephew died without lawful issue of his body. However, the court order issued in 1957 closing Testatrix’s estate granted fee simple absolute title to Nephew. The order did not mention Sister’s springing executory interest. No one challenged this order. Nephew died without lawful issue and thus Sister’s heirs asserted ownership to the property by filing a will construction action in district court in 1986. The court dismissed the action for lack of jurisdiction. Sister’s heirs appealed.

The appellate court affirmed because “a court is not permitted to interfere with the final judgment of another court of equal jurisdiction. * * * An action to undo an incorrect former judgment must be brought in the court rendering the judgment or in a higher court.” Garza at 699.

Moral: Probate orders must be carefully examined to be sure they correctly state the property interests to which the beneficiaries are entitled. Correction of errors at a later time may not be possible resulting in the intended beneficiaries losing their interests.