This Week in Probate and Guardianship Appeals

Johnny Carroll, Individually and as Trustee of the Johnny Carroll Trust, v. Letha Frances Carroll and Donald Carroll, Supreme Court of Texas
This week’s entry comes to us from on high, the Texas Supreme Court. Johnny Carroll appealed the Appellate court’s ruling on a default judgment which was awarded in favor of Letha and Donald Carroll. Johnny raised the issue of jurisdiction for the first time in the Supreme Court cliaming that the County Court, to which this case had been transferred, lacked the requisit jurisdiction to hear the matter. The Supreme Court agreed.

Jurisdiction in regard to Trust Proceedings

The Texas Property Code provides that a district court has original and exclusive jurisdiction over all proceedings concerining trusts, including proceedings to appoint or remove a trustee, determine the liablity of a trustee, or to require an accounting by a trustee.

Letha and Donald’s original suit sought exactly such accounting and removal. Despite this, the 66th District Court of Hill County transferred this suit to to County Court at Law.

The Supreme Court noted that the district courts may only assign cases to the county courts at law that are within the county court at law’s jurisdiction. Because nothing in the Texas Government Code confers jurisdiction on county courts at law over trust proceedings, the transfer to the Hill County Court at Law was improper. In light of the fact that the Hill County Court at Law had no jurisdiction over the proceeding, its judgment was void.

What does all of this mean for you? Perhaps a lot. Void judgments are no judgments at all. They are good nowhere and can be attacked at any time. Therefore, even if you have been out of court for years and you now read this and realize your trust case was handled in a court that lacked jurisdiction, you may still be able to attack such a judgment on the basis of voidness. To make sure, call us today and schedule an appointment to discuss your options.