Churchill v. Mayo, 224 S.W.3d 340 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2006, pet. denied).

Estate Administration

Appellate Jurisdiction


The trial court rendered a judgment that a surviving spouse had abandoned her survivor’s homestead. The court styled its judgment as an “interlocutory” summary judgment. When the surviving spouse appealed, the court on its own raised the issue of whether the court had jurisdiction. The court explained that it had the ability to hear only appeals of final orders under Probate Code § 5(g) and recited the test set forth by the Texas Supreme Court in Crowson v. Wakeham, 897 S.W.2d 779 (Tex. 1995). The court looked beyond the title of the judgment and recognized that the trial court’s order was complete, that is, it determined that (1) the surviving spouse originally had homestead rights, (2) the surviving spouse subsequently abandoned the homestead, (3) the surviving spouse had to account for the rental proceeds she received, and (4) the property was to be sold and the proceeds distributed to the decedent’s heirs. Accordingly, the court had jurisdiction to hear the surviving spouse’s appeal.

Moral: Lower court judgments should be carefully captioned so that final orders are not labeled as being interlocutory.