Duncan v. O’Shea, No. 07-19-00085-CV, 2020 WL 4773058 (Tex. App.—Amarillo Aug. 17, 2020, no pet. h.).


Co-trustees Powers


The majority of the co-trustees agreed to sell several parcels of trust real property. They successfully obtained a declaratory judgment under the Texas Uniform Declaratory Judgment Act, Tex. Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code §§ 37.001-37.011, declaring that they had the power to do so under the terms of the trust and Texas Property Code § 113.085(a). The trustee who opposed the sale appealed.

The appellate court affirmed. The court first rejected the dissenting trustee’s claim that a declaratory judgment must resolve all issues in dispute. The court stated that there was no legal authority to support this claim. In addition, § 37.003 expressly states that the court has the jurisdiction to declare rights “whether or not further relief is or could be claimed.”

The court also rejected the dissenting trustee’s claim that district court lacked jurisdiction to decide whether a majority of the trustees could sell the trust property. The court pointed to Property Code § 115.001(a) which grants the district court jurisdiction over a wide variety of trust matters including “a question arising in the administration . . . of a trust.”

The court also recognized that the trust instrument does impose certain restrictions on the sale of trust assets. However, the declaratory judgment did not involve the approval of any particular sale. Instead, it was merely a determination that the majority of the trustees have the power to sell.

Moral:  Absent trust language to the contrary, a majority of co-trustees may administer trust property over the objection of a minority of the co-trustees.