Estate Administration

Unqualified Community Administration

Coleman v. Winn-Coleman, Inc., 110 S.W.3d 104 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2003, no pet.).


Intestate died survived by Wife and their two children. No administration was opened for Intestate’s estate. One of the assets in Intestate’s estate was a promissory note on which he was the named payee. Wife sued to collect the note asserting the note was community property and that she had the right to recover on the note as the unqualified community administrator of Intestate’s estate under Probate Code § 160. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of the makers of the note because no court had yet to declare Wife as Intestate’s heir in an heirship proceeding.

The appellate court reversed. The court explained that under Probate Code § 45, all community property passed to Wife because all of Intestate’s descendants were also the descendants of the surviving spouse. In this situation, Probate Code § 155 states that no administration of community property is necessary. Probate Code § 160 then provides that the surviving spouse has the power to sue for the recovery of community property and to collect claims due to the community estate unless someone has qualified as the administrator. Accordingly, Wife had the authority to sue the makers of the promissory note.

Moral: A surviving spouse who is the sole heir to the community property need not first obtain a judicial declaration of heirship to recover community property when no one has been appointed as the personal representative of the deceased spouse’s estate.