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A guardian is a person who has been appointed by the court to make decisions regarding the personal matters of an individual. A guardian may be appointed to take care of a minor or adult with disabilities or an elderly person. As a guardian you are legally responsible for managing your ward’s assets, including their income and property. You have the power to enter into contracts and manage your ward’s financial affairs in accordance with his or her will, any trust documents and/or any other applicable legislation. This article deals with the assets of a deceased person and the powers and duties of a guardian of the estate of a person who is a minor or of unsound mind.

Under guardianship, a court will appoint someone to manage your personal finances when you are unable to do so. This person is referred to as your “guardian” and is responsible for financial decisions on your behalf.

In Carroll v. Carroll, 893 S.W.2d 62 (Tex. App. 1994), the Court of Appeals considered the jurisdiction of a county judge in a guardianship proceeding to order, one year after the ward’s death, the sale of land in the ward’s estate to pay the ward’s debt to the nursing home in which she resided for twenty-one years before her death.


non compos menti: not having control/mastery of one’s mind.


Appellants: Carl Carroll Jr., ET AL.

Appellees: Vernon Carroll, Norman Carroll, A. J. Carroll

Facts and Procedural History

On August 20, 1960, Ed Davis and Ida Mae Carroll Davis executed a joint will. Ida Mae Carroll Davis was appointed independent executor of her husband’s estate. The will provided that Norman Carroll, A. J. Carroll and Vernon Carroll were to receive title to the Davises’ 59.7 acre farm, subject only to Ida Davis’ life estate. On July 2, 1965, at the age of 71 years, Ida Davis moved into a nursing home. Her nephew, Dr. Carl Carroll, subsequently commenced guardianship proceedings against her and the county court declared Ida Davis to be non compos mentis and appointed appellant, Dr. Carroll, as guardian of her person and estate. Ida Davis died on September 17, 1986 at the age of 92 years.

On August 27, 1987, nine years after he was appointed guardian and almost one year after Ida Davis’ death, Dr. Carroll filed an application (in the guardianship case) and requested permission to sell the 59.7 acre farm. In the application, Dr. Carroll alleged that the farm was worth $ 60,600.00. Dr. Carroll also submitted a claim from the nursing home which alleged that the guardianship estate owed the nursing home $ 97,586.39. On September 8, 1987, the county court granted Dr. Carroll’s application and signed an order of sale. Dr. Carroll subsequently executed a deed and conveyed the 59.7 acre farm to Clarence Carroll, as trustee for the nursing home, to satisfy the debt to the home. On September 21, 1987, the county court entered a decree confirming the sale of the property by the guardian.

On December 31, 1987, Vernon Carroll, Appellee filed an application in the County Court of Lavaca County to probate Ida Davis’ will. On June 26, 1990, the county court admitted Ida Davis’ will to probate and appointed Vernon Carroll as independent executor of her estate.

On August 19, 1991, Vernon Carroll and others alleged that pursuant to the will, they owned the 59.7 acre farm in fee simple and sued appellants, Carl Carroll, for a declaratory judgment, trespass to try title, removal of cloud on title, cancellation of deed, damages and attorneys’ fees. On November 25, 1992, the district court rendered judgment declaring the following to be void and of no effect: the county court’s order of sale, the county court’s decree confirming sale, and Dr. Carroll’s deed conveying the 59.7 acre farm to Clarence Carroll as trustee for the Yoakum Memorial Nursing Home. The district court declared that fee simple title to the 59.7 acre farm passed to Vernon Carroll and others named in the will. Plaintiffs were awarded damages (rental value of the property) and attorneys’ fees, and the court issued a writ of possession in favor of appellees.

Appellants now complain that the district court should have dismissed this case for lack of jurisdiction because Vernon Carroll’s application for probate of Ida Davis’ will, and the guardianship proceeding were commenced, and pending, in the county court prior to the initiation of appellees’ action in the district court.


Did the district court have jurisdiction to hear this case while the deceased’s estate remained pending in the county court?

Under Tex. Prob. Code Ann. § 5(b) and (e) the District Court of Lavaca County and the County Court of Lavaca County have concurrent jurisdiction. District courts, the courts of general jurisdiction, have jurisdiction over suits involving the validity of claims against the estate of a decedent which is being independently administered.

In the present case, because a suit was brought to establish title, and the interests of the real property, the district court is the more appropriate tribunal. The nature of appellees’ cause of action involved issues that the probate court did not have jurisdiction over. In addition, the powers of the probate court are inadequate to grant the plaintiffs the full relief and because of this, the district court has jurisdiction and may grant such relief.


A guardian has no authority to sell property belonging to the estate of the deceased ward one year after the ward’s death.

Upon the death of the ward, the guardian has only the obligation and authority to file a final accounting and to inform the court of the expenses and debts against the estate remaining unpaid (Tex. Prob. Code Ann. § 405).

As long as an estate remains under control of an independent executor, the probate court lacks jurisdiction to consider and approve claims against the estate. (Tex. Prob. Code Ann. § 145(h) (1980).

District courts, the courts of general jurisdiction, have jurisdiction over suits involving the validity of claims against the estate (such as a title claim) of a decedent which is being independently administered.

Do You Need a Probate Attorney to Settle an Estate in El Paso, Texas?

Probate attorneys are skilled in estate and trust administration, from the initial delivery of an accurate death certificate to the final distribution of all assets according to the court order. A good probate attorney will guide you through every step of the process from beginning to end. Hire an experienced probate lawyer in the El Paso metro area or in the surrounding communities. Contact us on our homepage, and don’t forget to ask about our Free 30-minute probate attorney consultation.


Related Questions

What happens to guardianship when the ward dies?

When a person dies, their assets must be distributed according to the deceased’s last will and testament. The process of distributing the assets can sometimes be tricky and often takes years to complete. If the deceased had an estate, distributing their assets can be extremely complex and time-consuming.

What is the difference between guardian and successor guardian?

A guardian is a person appointed by a court to manage the property of another person, usually a minor child or an adult who is legally unable to manage his or her own affairs. If a guardian is no longer able to fulfill their duties, the court will appoint an acting successor.

When does guardianship end?

When a minor reaches the age of majority, their guardianship ends. Most states set the age of majority at 18; some states make it 21. The age of majority will vary depending on whether the child is in care or not. In many cases, the guardian remains in charge and simply changes from sole to joint.

What happens to a child if their guardian dies?

When a guardian dies, the duties of that guardian are transferred to the successor guardian. The successor guardian is responsible for all subsequent decisions concerning the child or incapacitated adult until another guardian can be appointed.

What happens when a ward of the state dies?

A guardian must take care of the ward’s final wishes. This includes making funeral, burial or cremation arrangements. In some instances, the guardianship may be ended via a special court order after a hearing is held detailing the reasons why it should end and what has been done on behalf of the ward.

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