Estate Administration

Estate as Legal Entity

Miller v. Estate of Self, 113 S.W.3d 554 (Tex. App.—Texarkana 2003, no pet.).


Plaintiff named the “estate of Decedent” as the defendant in a lawsuit. The petition was served on Administrator of Decedent’s estate. After a verdict against Decedent was rendered in the case, Administrator moved to dismiss for lack of jurisdiction and the trial court granted the motion. Plaintiff appealed.

The appellate court affirmed. The court began its analysis with the basic, albeit often overlooked, rule that the estate of a decedent is not a legal entity which may sue or be sued. Plaintiff argued that the estate had waived the issue. The court, however, reasoned that since there was no legal entity named in the suit, there was no one who could waive any defect therein.

Plaintiff next argued that the dismissal was improper because Administrator participated in the lawsuit. The court recognized that if a personal representative is served and participates in the suit in a representative capacity, that the resulting judgment is valid even though it names the estate. However, the court found that although Administrator was served, he did not actually participate in the lawsuit as Plaintiff alleged. Plaintiff did not attend the trial and no documents were filed either by him or on his behalf in the case.

Moral: Litigants must remember that an estate is not a legal entity and to name the personal representative of the decedent as the party.