Texas Court of Appeals

In Wells Fargo, N.A. v. Clower, a trustee filed suit for declaratory relief regarding its discretion to make income distributions. No. 02-20-00058-CV, 2021 Tex. App. LEXIS 7675 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth September 16, 2021, no pet.). The beneficiaries filed counterclaims for breach of fiduciary duty. The trial court ordered the trustee to pay into the registry of the court over $250,000 for attorney’s fees it had paid out of the trust and ordered the trustee to no longer pay its attorneys from the trust. The beneficiaries challenged the trustee’s standing and capacity as trustee, alleging that the trustee was only a de facto trustee and not a de jure trustee. After a three-day bench trial on the issue of standing, the trial court concluded in 2011 that Wells Fargo had standing as trustee, i.e., was the de jure trustee of the trust. The court noted that the beneficiary had also lost on the standing issue in federal court. Id. (citing Clower v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 2:07-CV-510-TJW-CE, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 162702, 2011 WL 13196511, at *2 (E.D. Tex. Sept. 30, 2011); Clower v. Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., 259 F.R.D. 253, 254, 261-62 (E.D. Tex. 2009) (order granting class certification), order vacated, appeal dism’d, 381 Fed. Appx. 450 (5th Cir. 2010)).
Continue Reading Court Holds That Trust Was Not Ambiguous And Provided The Trustee Discretion In Making Income Distributions

In McEndree v. Volke, a beneficiary sued a trustee, her former step father, for breaching fiduciary duties. No. 11-19-00351-CV, 2021 Tex. App. LEXIS 7856 (Tex. App.—Eastland September 23, 2021, no pet. history). The trust was to hold Social Security Administration benefits. Though the trust was created in 1997, the beneficiary was not aware of it until 2016 because the trustee never told her about it, never made a distribution, and never provided any accounting information. The beneficiary filed a traditional motion for summary judgment based on deemed admissions and on the affidavit. The trial court granted the motion, and the trustee appealed. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the beneficiary did not meet her summary judgment burden of proof.
Continue Reading Court Reversed Summary Judgment Against Trustee Where Beneficiary’s Affidavit Evidence Was Conclusory

In Flores v. Branscomb PC, before her death, the decedent hired counsel to prepare a new will. No. 13-18-00411-CV, 2021 Tex. App. LEXIS 4612 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi June 10, 2021, no pet. history). The new will would have named the decedent’s granddaughter as her executor and as a beneficiary. The decedent died before signing the new will, and the granddaughter sued the decedent’s attorneys for malpractice. The attorneys filed a motion for summary judgment, arguing that they owed no duty to the granddaughter. The trial court granted the summary judgment, and the granddaughter appealed.
Continue Reading Court Held That The Estate Planning Privity Rule Barred Granddaughter’s Claim For Malpractice Against Her Grandmother’s Attorneys Regarding The Failure To Execute A New Will

A common complaint of a minority shareholder is the denial of access to the corporation’s books and records. A shareholder enjoys the right to examine and copy certain records of the corporation in which the shareholder owns shares. That right exists by statute, see Tex. Bus. Orgs. Code § 21.218(b), and at common law, see Texas Infra—Red Radiant Co. v. Erwin, 397 S.W.2d 491, 493 (Tex. App.—Eastland 1965, writ ref’d n.r.e.). Section 21.218 provides:

On written demand stating a proper purpose, a holder of shares of a corporation for at least six months immediately preceding the holder’s demand, or a holder of at least five percent of all of the outstanding shares of a corporation, is entitled to examine and copy, at a reasonable time, the corporation’s books, records of account, minutes, and share transfer records relating to the stated purpose. The examination may be conducted in person or through an agent, accountant, or attorney.


Continue Reading Appellate Court Grants Mandamus Relief To Require A Jury Trial On The Issue Of Whether The Inspection Of Books And Records Of A Company Was Sought For A Proper Purpose

In Goepp v. Comerica Bank & Trust, N.A., the settlors created inter vivos trusts and their three children were the remainder beneficiaries. No. 03-19-00485-CV, 2021 Tex. App. LEXIS 5461 (Tex. App.—Austin July 9, 2021, no pet. history). The three children became co-trustees and then had disputes. They entered into a family settlement agreement, and had a corporate trustee appointed successor trustee. The corporate trustee then filed a “First Amended Petition for Settlement of Trustee’s Final Account and Order of No Liability.” Id. One of the children objected “to the Trustee’s Petition, complaining about the timing of certain preferential distribution payments, about the calculations of interest on the distributions, and that he ‘has yet to be reimbursed the monies owed to him for out of pocket expenses of durable medical equipment purchased on behalf of Iraida.’” Id. After the trial court entered the relief requested by the corporate trustee, several of the children appealed.
Continue Reading Court Holds That Probate Court Had Jurisdiction Over Inter Vivos Trust Dispute And That A Beneficiary Waived A Complaint About A “No Liability” Order For A Trustee

In Quintanilla v. De La Rosa, a defendant appealed the trial court’s issuance of a temporary injunction enjoining her from withdrawing money from a bank account that belonged to a decedent.  No. 13-20-00575-CV, 2021 Tex. App. LEXIS 5849 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi July 22, 2021, no pet. history). The plaintiff, the daughter of the decedent,

In In the Estate of Johnson, an applicant to be an independent administrator appealed a court’s decision to not appoint him due to his being unsuitable. No. 02-20-00133-CV, 2021 Tex. App. LEXIS 7138 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth August 26, 2021, no pet. history). The court of appeals first discussed the standard of review of orders finding a person unsuitable:

A probate court’s order finding a person is unsuitable to serve as executor is reviewed under an abuse-of-discretion standard. When applying an abuse-of-discretion standard, the normal sufficiency-of-the-evidence review is part of the abuse-of-discretion review and not an independent ground for reversal. The probate court abuses its discretion if its actions are unreasonable or arbitrary or without reference to any guiding rules or principles. “Under an abuse of discretion standard of review, we must make an independent inquiry of the entire record to determine if the trial court abused its discretion and are not limited to reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support the findings of fact made.”


Continue Reading Court Affirms Decision That Executor Applicant Was Unsuitable For That Position

In In re Estate of Clark, a trial court entered an order allowing a family allowance for the decedent’s wife. No. 02-20-00211-CV, 2021 Tex. App. LEXIS 5685 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth July 15, 2021, no pet. history). After the wife was removed as the administrator of the estate, the court entered another order ending the family allowance.
Continue Reading Court’s Order Ending Family Allowance To Decedent’s Wife Was Reversed Due To A Lack Of Notice To The Wife

In Moore v. Estate of Moore, a decedent’s wife claimed that she had an interest in an oil and gas lease formerly owned by her deceased husband. No. 07-20-00019-CV, 2021 Tex. App. LEXIS 6142 (Tex. App.—Amarillo July 30, 2021, no pet. history). The decedent’s children were the trustees of a trust that was the residuary beneficiary of the decedent’s will. If the decedent still owned the mineral interests at the time of his death, the trust would inherit that interest. After the decedent died, the wife and the trustees settled their dispute and entered into a settlement agreement that provided: “The Parties agree that each shall keep and own such real and personal property as they currently possess without any challenge of any other party.” Id. Later, the trustees sued the wife, alleging she breached her contractual duty to transfer the mineral interest to the trust, was liable under a theory of money had and received, and breached her fiduciary duties. After a jury trial, the trial court entered a judgment for the trustees, and held that the mineral interest belonged to the trust. The wife appealed.
Continue Reading Court Holds That Trust Owned Mineral Interests And Not The Settlor’s Wife

In Peek v. Mayfield, a beneficiary sued a trustee for breach of fiduciary duty. No. 02-20-00107-CV, 2021 Tex. App. LEXIS 6080 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth July 29, 2021, no pet.). After a bench trial, the district court found that the trustee breached his fiduciary duties, removed him, and entered an order appointing a receiver and