Pine v. deBlieux, 360 S.W.3d 45 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2011, pet. denied).


Estate Administration

Personal Representative



A dispute arose among the decedent’s children regarding who should serve as the personal representative.  After the trial court appointed one of the children, two of the other children appealed claiming that a conflict of interest made her unsuitable to serve under Probate Code § 78(e).  The appellate court agreed.


The court recognized that a trial court has broad discretion in determining whether someone is unsuitable to serve as a personal representative and that the trial court’s determination stands unless there is an abuse of discretion.  The court also explained that just because a personal representative has a claim against an estate or is beneficiary or heir does not render the person automatically unsuitable.  However, under the facts of this case, the child’s conflict of interest caused by her claim to a substantial portion of her father’s assets rendered her unsuitable to serve as a matter of law.  The personal representative was not seeking satisfaction of a claim from estate assets.  Instead, the personal representative is claiming disputed assets to the exclusion of the estate.  Her personal interests are so adverse to those of the estate that both cannot be fairly represented by the same person.  The court noted that the personal representative was not one the decedent selected.  The court was also mindful that the ability to determine that someone is unsuitable at the time of appointment is broader than the grounds for removing a person from office.  See Kappus v. Kappus, 284 S.W.3d 831 (Tex. 2009).


Moral:  A person may be unsuitable for appointment as a personal representative if the person claims disputed assets to the exclusion of the decedent’s estate.