In re Hannah431 S.W.3d 801 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2014, no pet.).

Estate Administration



A dispute arose regarding the proper court which has venue over a tortious interference with inheritance rights case.  Plaintiff filed suit in a county in which one of the alleged tortfeasors was domiciled.  This defendant later claimed that the action was related to a probate proceeding and thus should be heard in the county in which the decedent was domiciled at the time of death.  The judge agreed and transferred the case.  Plaintiff then sought mandamus relief.


The appellate court conditionally granted a writ of mandamus.  The court focused on the definition of “probate proceeding” in Estates Code § 31.001 and determined that the tortious interference case did not fall within any of the enumerated proceedings.  The court explained that the action was one for money damages based on alleged conduct amounting to tortious interference.  There was no will contest, no claim of heirship, and no claim that the decedent owed money to Plaintiff.  No probate law would be involved in resolving the case; instead, it would be tort law.  In addition, any judgment against the defendants would not be paid from assets of the decedent’s estate.  As the court stated, “The only connection between relator’s suit and the decedent’s estate is the measure of damages–i.e., what, if anything, relator would have received through probate proceedings were it not for the defendants’ alleged actions.”


Accordingly, the trial court abused its discretion by not following Plaintiff’s election to have venue in the county where one of the defendants was domiciled pursuant to Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 15.017.


Moral:  An action for tortious interference with inheritance rights may not necessarily be treated as a probate proceeding.