In Many v. Ridgely, a decedent’s son and daughter were beneficiaries of her estate. No. 03-21-00520-CV, 2023 Tex. App. LEXIS 8189 (Tex. App.—Austin October 27, 2023, no pet. history). Six years after an initial accounting, the daughter, who was the executrix, filed an updated accounting, and the parties attended a hearing. After the hearing, the executrix provided her brother with additional information. The brother then filed a motion under Texas Estate Code Section 405.001 for a forensic accounting. After another hearing, the probate court approved the executrix’s accounting and denied the motion for a forensic accounting. The brother appealed.
The court first addressed the Estate Code’s provisions for accountings:
Section 404.001(a) of the Estates Code provides that an interested party may demand an accounting from the independent executor. See id. § 404.001(a). The statute then provides a list of what the independent executor must provide to the interested party within sixty days, including, among other things: estate property that has “come into” the executor’s possession and the disposition of that property; debts paid by the estate; and debts and expenses still owing to the estate. Id. Subsection (6) contains a catch-all provision, requiring the executor to show “other facts as may be necessary to a full and definite understanding of the exact condition of the estate.” Id. Section 405.001, on the other hand, allows an interested person to petition the probate court for accounting and distribution. See id. § 405.001(a). The probate court “may order an accounting to be made with the court by the independent executor at such time as the court considers proper.” Id. The statute requires the accounting to include “the information that the court considers necessary to determine whether any part of the estate should be distributed.” Id.
Id. The court noted that the executrix provided the probate court with the first accounting and then two more detailed accountings, which included over one hundred pages of invoices, receipts, canceled checks, and other documents. The court describes the brother’s objections and the explanations:
First, in regard to the April 8, 2021 accounting, Many complained about “unexplained contradictions” and “inconsistences” within Ridgely’s accounting of expenses, one of them being why Ridgely left the Decedent’s residence vacant for several years after Decedent’s death. In response, Ridgely provided documentation explaining that she attempted to lease the residence but had issues doing so because of the residence’s physical condition and her inability to find prospective tenants who could afford the requested rent. Relatedly, Many also questioned the utility expenses on the residence, claiming they were unusually high for a mostly vacant property. In response, Ridgely provided documentation of homeowner’s insurance, water usage reports, exterminator services, housekeeping services, and other items related to the upkeep of the residence. As independent executor, Ridgely had a duty to “take care of estate property as a prudent person would take care of that person’s own property, and keep [any buildings belonging to the estate] in good repair.” Id. § 351.101.
Despite these explanations, Many again objected to the accounting, specifically to Ridgely’s itemized debts. Once more, Ridgely, in a sworn affidavit and inventory, provided the probate court with a response to the accounting items challenged by Many. These explanatory documents included, among other items: receipts from payments of housekeeping services, property taxes, lawn services, neighborhood association dues, and funeral services. In all, the sworn inventory provided approximately thirty-six items of specific Estate expenses that Ridgely paid out of her own personal funds. Based on the documentary evidence and Ridgely’s sworn affidavit, we conclude the probate court did not abuse its discretion in approving Ridgely’s final accounting.
Id. The court then affirmed the denial of the request for a forensic accounting, stating: “Because we have determined the probate court did not abuse its discretion in approving Ridgely’s final accounting, we necessarily conclude that Many’s request for accounting and distribution under Section 405.001 was unnecessary and that the probate court did not err in denying it.” Id.