Estate Administration

Powers of Temporary Administrator

Hill v. Bartlette, 181 S.W.3d 541 (Tex. App.—Texarkana 2005, no pet.).


Temporary Administrator of Decedent’s estate signed a settlement agreement releasing Tortfeasor from all claims arising out of an accident which caused Decedent’s death. Several years later, Mother sued Tortfeasor asserting wrongful death and survival claims. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of Tortfeasor. Mother appealed.

The appellate court affirmed on two grounds. First, the court held that the statute of limitations had run and that there was insufficient evidence to prove that Tortfeasor was equitably estopped from raising the defense. Second, and more importantly from a probate perspective, the court agreed that the settlement agreement operated as an accord and satisfaction of both the wrongful death and survival claims. Mother made several unsuccessful arguments that the settlement agreement was not binding.


Mother did not sign the settlement agreement and has not received its proceeds. The court explained that Mother’s signature was not necessary and that the proper distribution of the proceeds by Temporary Administrator is not Tortfeasor’s responsibility.

Note: A concurring opinion points out that although Temporary Administrator had the authority to represent the estate, Probate Code § 234(a)(4) requires the personal representative to make a written application to the court and obtain an order specifically authorizing the settlement.

Moral: To avoid difficulties, a personal representative who is not independent in nature should apply for and obtain a court order authorizing any settlement which the personal representative wishes to enter.