In re Estate of Walker, 250 S.W.3d 212 (Tex. App.—Dallas 2008, pet. denied).

Estate Administration



Originally, Executrix filed an inventory valuing Testatrix’s estate at over $5 million. Thereafter, Executrix filed an amended inventory showing the assets of the estate as being only approximately $180,000 because Testatrix had placed assets originally shown on the inventory into an inter vivos trust over a decade prior to her death. A group of Testatrix’s family members then filed suit under Probate Code § 258 claiming that the amended inventory was erroneous asserting that Testatrix’s trust was invalid for failure to identify the trust property and thus the amended inventory omitted property that was actually still in Testatrix’s probate estate. After reviewing the evidence, the probate court ruled that the amended inventory was neither erroneous nor unjust. The family members appealed.

The appellate court affirmed. First, the court recognized that there was no Texas case stating the standard of review the appellate court should apply when reviewing an appeal of a complaint under Probate Code § 258. The court analogized this situation to that of removal of a personal representative and determining whether a person is unsuitable to serve as a personal representative. Accordingly, the court held that the probate court’s order would be reviewed under an abuse of discretion standard and would be overturned only if the court acted “in an arbitrary or unreasonable manner without reference to any guiding rules or principles.” Walker at 214. Second, the court reviewed the evidence and determined that the property description in the trust was reasonably certain and thus the probate court did not abuse its discretion.

Moral: The appellate court will review an appeal of a court’s finding of the correctness of an inventory under Probate Code § 258 using the abuse of discretion standard.



Property Description


An inter vivos trust described trust property as:

All properties whether real or personal or mixed we [the two settlors] now own or will own in our names individually or in the name of B & W investments. * * *

We include all real or personal or mixed properties such as land, buildings, houses, stock, other securities, insurance policies, art, coin collections, automobiles, our companies other personal property with or without titles except that which we each maintain separately on our books and records * * *.

Both the probate and appellate courts held that this was an adequate description of trust property. The appellate court explained that there was sufficient testimony by a CPA and attorney that the precise property referenced by this description was ascertainable by consulting property and tax records.

Comment: It seems that a better argument against the validity of trust may have been whether the settlors had actually conveyed the property into the trust. Even if the property is clearly described in the trust instrument, it still must be conveyed into the trust for the trust to be effective.

Moral: Trust property needs to be carefully described in the trust instrument to avoid disputes over what is and is not included.