Estate Administration


Effect of Party’s Death

Supak v. Zboril, 56 S.W.3d 785 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2001, no pet.).


After the death of a party to an ongoing lawsuit, neither the decedent’s personal representative nor the heirs of the estate were joined as parties. Although no party disputed the lower court’s jurisdiction at trial or on appeal, the appellate court raised the issue. The court held that the lower court did not have jurisdiction. The lower court may not simply proceed against the estate of the deceased party. For unknown reasons, no one followed the procedures set forth in the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure to obtain the appearance of a representative on behalf of the deceased party’s estate so the lawsuit could properly continue. Tex. R. Civ. P. 151 & 152. The argument that jurisdiction existed because the personal representative appeared at trial failed because there was no evidence that the personal representative actively participated in the case as the personal representative of the decedent’s estate. Because the trial court could not properly enter judgment against a party not before it, the court found the judgment void to the extent it imposed liability against the decedent’s estate.

Moral: When a party to a lawsuit dies, be certain to follow the proper procedures to make a representative of the deceased party’s estate a party to the lawsuit.