This Week in Probate and Guardianship Appeals

Case: Kappus v. Kappus
Court: Supreme Court of Texas

This case deals with the removal of an independent executor because of an alleged conflict of interest.

In a fairly broad sweeping opinion, the Supreme Court ruled that because a conflict of interest is not listed in the probate code among the several grounds as conditions for removal, it is not a valid reason for removal.

The Court noted that the grounds to remove an independent executor post-appointment are different than those to disqualify an executor pre-appointment. The evidence in the case showed that the dispute was a good-faith disagreement between the executor and the contestant as to how to split the value of improvements made to land co-owned by the Estate and the Independent Executor. The record contained no evidence of dishonesty or misappropriation on the Executor’s part.

The Court concluded that a good-faith disagreement over the Executor’s ownership share in the estate is not enough, standing alone, to require removal under section 149C. The estate was small; there was no actual harm to the Estate since the trial court resolved the percentage-of-ownership issue; the Independent Executor asserted his claim in good faith; and the Testator knew of the Independent Executor’s co-ownership in the property when he named him as such in his will. Therefore, without more, the Court was unwilling to remove the Independent Executor based on a potential conflict of interest.

What does this mean for you? You need to be vigilant in attacking conflicts of interest prior to appointment. If you see potential danger ahead, do not wait until it’s too late. Contact us today and let us help you to ensure that your matter is handled properly from the start.