Mortensen v. Villegas, 630 S.W.3d 355 (Tex. App.—El Paso 2021, no pet. h.).

Estate Administration


Decedent’s heirs requested a determination of heirship but the court failed to act on the application. Later, Decedent’s Neighbor filed a claim against the estate asserting that Decedent’s property had been abandoned which was reducing the value of his property and that he had performed work on the property such as pulling weeds and picking up trash. The court then determined Decedent’s heirs and also held that Neighbor lacked standing to bring his claim. In an earlier case, the appellate court affirmed the trial court.

Neighbor then filed a slew of new claims in the heirship proceeding such as slander, libel, and nuisance. The appellate court explained that the statutory probate court lacked jurisdiction because Neighbor’s claims did not involve a probate proceeding or a matter related to one under Estates Code § 31.001. It is not enough that the causes of action implicated people involved in the heirship determination.

Moral:  A claim which merely involves a decedent’s property or a decedent’s heirs is not necessarily related to probate proceeding over which a statutory probate court has jurisdiction.