Estate of Mathis, 543 S.W.3d 927 (Tex. App.—Eastland 2018, no pet.).

Estate Administration

Family Settlements


The parties to a contested probate proceeding solved their issues by entering into a family settlement agreement. This agreement provided for the disposition of the decedent’s estate and released all claims and causes of action between them involving the decedent “from the beginning of time through the date of the execution of this Agreement.” Subsequently one of the parties attempted to bring claims based on conduct which occurred prior to the date of the agreement. The trial court dismissed the claims and the unhappy party appealed.


The appellate court affirmed. The court explained that the agreement barred claims which predated the agreement especially because the party did not even seek revocation of the agreement in the first place. However, the appellate court reversed the trial court’s determination that the party was not responsible for reasonable attorney’s fees because Rule 91a mandates that the prevailing party recover attorney fees unless a governmental entity or public official is involved. Thus, the case was remanded to the trial court to determine the amount of the reasonable and necessary attorney fees.


Moral:  If a party to a settlement agreement seeks to pursue matters already settled, the party must first set aside the agreement.