In Estate of Larson, 541 S.W.3d 368 (Tex. App.—Houston [14th Dist.] 2017, no pet.).

Estate Administration

Fee Awards


Husband’s Executor, while Husband was still alive, opened a guardianship on Wife with the assistance of Lawyers. Wife died and then Husband died. Husband’s Executor and Lawyers requested fee payments from Wife’s estate for various expenses, including those relating to Wife’s guardianship. The trial court granted the requests. Beneficiaries of Wife’s estate then challenged these awards on appeal.


The appellate court reversed. The court first addressed Lawyers’ claims which were for payment for services rendered to someone other than Wife in a different proceeding. Lawyers claimed that Estates Code § 1155.054 authorizes the court to award reasonable and necessary attorney fees relating Wife’s guardianship. This authorization is, however for the “court that creates a guardianship.”

The probate court handling Wife’s estate is not the court that created the Wife’s guardianship and thus it had no authority to approve those fees as valid claims against Wife’s estate. The court rejected Lawyers’ claim that the statute does not prevent other courts from making the award. Lawyers could have presented their fee requests when Wife’s guardianship was closed but they failed to do so.


The court next agreed with Beneficiaries’ claim that the trial court erred in ordering payment of Executor’s claim. Executor did not timely file suit contesting the rejection of the claim by Wife’s Administrator under Estates Code § 355.064 which imposes a 90 day period from the date of rejection and thus the claim was barred.


Morals: A perfectly “valid” claim may go unpaid if the claimant does not follow proper procedures: (1) An attorney seeking fees for work on a guardianship of a ward who has died should have those fees approved by the court that created the guardianship. (2) A claimant whose claim is rejected in a dependent administration should file suit contesting that rejection within 90 days of the rejection.