Dolenz v. Vail, 200 S.W.3d 338 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2006, no pet.).

Estate Administration


Res Judicata and Collateral Estoppel


Creditor asserted that Decedent had granted him a security interest under the U.C.C. in paintings held by Decedent’s trust as collateral for the payment of legal fees. Creditor sought to take possession of the paintings and the probate court denied the motion finding that it had no jurisdiction to hear the case because the matters were decided in prior proceedings, both at the trial and appellate levels.

The appellate court reversed. The court held that the probate court has jurisdiction to hear Creditor’s motion because “his claim is a matter relating to the distribution of [the] estate of a deceased person and thus a matter ‘incident to an estate’” under Probate Code §§ 5(d), 5(f), & 5A(b). Dolenz at 341. The court explained that collateral estoppel and res judicata are not jurisdictional issues although they may affect the merits of Creditor’s claim.

Moral: Assertions of res judicata and collateral estoppel do not negate a court’s jurisdiction although they may impact the court’s ultimate decision in the case.