A claim for tortious interference with inheritance is not necessarily a “probate proceeding”

A claim for tortious interference with inheritance is not necessarily a “probate proceeding”

In In re Hannah, the Houston Fourteenth Court of Appeals considered the Texas Estates Code definitions of a “probate proceeding” and a “matter related to a probate proceeding.”  The case involved a claim by the beneficiary of prior wills against the beneficiaries of a later will.  The claim was that the later beneficiaries tortiously interfered with the prior beneficiary’s expected inheritance.

The tortious interference case was filed in Harris County.  The will depriving the earlier beneficiary of her interest was filed and admitted to probate in Aransas County.  The beneficiaries of that will were defendants in the Harris County suit.  They contended the suit should be transferred to the Aransas County Court at Law that admitted the later will to probate,  contending the suit was either a probate proceeding or a matter related to a probate proceeding.

The Houston Court of Appeals disagreed and ordered that the tortious inteference suit should proceed in Harris County.  In so holding, the Court noted that:

a)  the prior beneficiary was not attempting to overturn the order of the Aransas County Court at Law admitting the later will to probate; and

b) the prior beneficiary was seeking recovery directly from the beneficiaries of the later will, not from the estate of the decedent.

In essence, the Court of Appeals found that the estate proceeding likely provided a measure of damages for the the tortious interference claim.  But that did not mean they were necessarily interwined.

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