Estate of Brazda, 582 S.W.3d 717 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2019, no pet. h.).


Estate Administration -- Jurisdiction

The probate court ordered the administrator to distribute certain funds and held the administrator personally liable for damages resulting from the delay in distributing under Estates Code § 360.301. Later the same day, the administrator moved to have the order reconsidered. Two weeks later, the probate court granted the motion. At a hearing on the motion several months later, the probate court entered orders reconsidering and removing damages against the administrator. An heir appealed on the ground that the trial court lost plenary power over the order before it entered the reconsideration order.


The appellate court agreed. First, the court decided it had jurisdiction to hear an appeal from the reconsideration because the orders are to be treated as an “undivided whole” and thus final and appealable. Likewise, the court explained that the original probate court order requiring to administrator to distribute property and holding the administrator liable was a final order and not an interlocutory one. The order resolved all of the then-live claims including the awarding of damages. Accordingly, the probate court lost its plenary power to reconsider the order or enter further inconsistent orders. Instead, the administrator should have appealed. Note that the court engaged in a detailed discussion of how the time for the court to undo an order after entering it may be extended. However, the new trial court orders were entered even after the longest possible extension.


Moral:  A party dissatisfied with a probate court order must take proper steps either to timely (1) file a motion under Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 329b or (2) appeal.