Schuchmann v. Schuchmann, 193 S.W.3d 598 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 2006, pet. denied).



Statutory Probate Court


While divorce litigation was pending in a district court, Husband sued Wife in a statutory probate court with regard to inter vivos trusts Husband’s father had created naming Husband as a beneficiary. This triggered a variety of orders and settlement agreements resulting in a convoluted set of events which eventually lead to Wife filing a motion in probate court to enforce a settlement agreement and to transfer Husband’s post-divorce action to the probate court. Despite Husband’s argument that the probate court lacked jurisdiction, the probate court ordered the post-divorce action transferred from the district court. Husband appealed.

The appellate court reversed holding that the probate court lacked jurisdiction to transfer the post-divorce action. The court explained that the post-divorce action dealt with assets unrelated to the trusts at issue in the probate court litigation. The court examined Probate Code § 5 and found no basis to give the probate court jurisdiction. The suit did not involve (1) an inter vivos trust (§ 5(e)), (2) a matter appertaining or incident to the estate of a deceased person (§ 5(h)), or (3) a set of facts which would trigger the probate court’s pendant and ancillary jurisdiction which exists when there is a close relationship between non-probate claims and the matter pending in the probate court so that the court’s exercise of jurisdiction would aid in the efficient administration of a matter pending in probate court (§ 5(i)). Accordingly, the court ordered the probate court to transfer the case back to the district court.

Moral: Appellate courts appear unwilling to expand the jurisdiction of statutory probate courts to situations which have a tenuous, if any, connection to probate or trust matters.