Eastland v. Eastland, 273 S.W.3d 815 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2008, no pet.).

Estate Administration

Independent Administration

Appointment of Independent Executor

Successor Independent Executor


The probate court appointed Successor Executor even though the notice requirements of Probate Code § 220(a) were not followed. Beneficiary appealed.

The appellate court held that § 220(a) applies only to dependent administrations and not to independent administrations. The court explained that although the term “personal representative” in § 220(a) would encompass an independent executor, § 3(aa) states that the expansive definition “shall not be held to subject such representatives to control of the courts in probate matters with respect to settlement of estates except as expressly provided by law.” Section 220(a) does not expressly include independent executors and thus the section is inapplicable. In addition, the court explained, under existing cases it is clear that removal and hence appointment of a independent executor is control with respect to the settlement of the estate. The court’s decision is also supported by the legislative purpose behind independent administrations which is for the courts to take a “hands-off” approach unless the Probate Code provides otherwise.

Moral: Probate Code § 220(a) does not apply to independent administrations.

Named Successor Deemed Suitable

The court appointed the named successor independent executor after the death of the primary independent executor. A beneficiary (the successor’s brother) appealed claiming that the court should not have appointed this successor. Brother alleged that the successor is unsuitable for the position because the successor, a lawyer, had provided legal advice to the primary executor, his mother, and that some of this advice could have involved transactions which were a breach of her fiduciary duties. In addition, he was involved in many matters regarding the estate. The court reviewed the evidence and determined that none of these conflicts amounted to “a conflict of interest involving ownership claims by him of estate property adverse to the clear pronouncements of the will or to the best interests of the estate.” Eastland, at 828.

Moral: Being a beneficiary of an estate or having other dealing with the decedent or the decedent’s estate is not sufficient, in and of itself, to make the beneficiary unsuitable to serve as a personal representative.