Estate Administration


Gonzalez v. Reliant Energy, Inc., 159 S.W.3d 615 (2005),

affirming, Reliant Energy, Inc. v. Gonzalez, 102 S.W.3d 868 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2003).


Decedent was killed in a work-related accident in Fort Bend County. Decedent’s residence at the time of his death was in Hidalgo County. Accordingly, under Probate Code § 6, administration of Decedent’s estate was opened in Hidalgo County. The court held that the proper venue for Administrator’s wrongful death claim was in Harris County, the county in which Decedent’s employer had its principal place of business, because the venue provisions of Civil Practice & Remedies Code § 15.007 dealing with actions by or against a personal representative for personal injury, death or property damage trump the applicable venue provisions of the Probate Code.

The court engaged in an extensive analysis of the jurisdictional and venue provisions of the Probate Code. The court explained that the plain language of § 15.007 provides that its method of venue determination is superior to the Probate Code venue provisions. Accordingly, § 15.007 limits the statutory probate court’s discretionary authority under Probate Code § 5B to transfer to itself a wrongful death, personal injury, or property damage case in which a personal representative of an estate pending in that court is a party unless the county in which the probate court is located would also be a county of proper venue under Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 15.002.

Note: The result in this case appears to have been codified by the 2003 Texas Legislature in H.B. 4 which amended Probate Code §§ 5A, 5B, and 607 to provide that venue of an action by or against a personal representative for personal injury, death, or property damage is determined under § 15.007.

Moral: Venue for wrongful death and survival actions is determined according to Civil Practice & Remedies Code § 15.007, not the Probate Code.

Note: On the same day, the Texas Supreme Court resolved a conflicting lower court case involving similar facts by conditionally granting mandamus directing a probate court to vacate its order granting a transfer motion under Probate Code § 5B. In re Terex, 48 Tex. S. Ct. J. 477 (2005), granting conditional mandamus to In re Terex, 123 S.W.3d 673 (Tex. App.—El Paso 2003).