F+B Wins Decisive Victory in Court of Appeals

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On January 13, 2011, the Fourteenth Court of Appeals in Houston handed down its decision in the case Guyton v. Monteau, 14-09-00804-CV. F+B successfully represented Courtney Guyton in her appeal of the decision in the probate of her father’s estate. The Court of Appeals sustained every point raised on behalf of Guyton and took the extremely unusual step of not only sending the case back to the trial court for further action, but the Court of Appeals issued an Order requiring the trial judge to grant the relief that Guyton had originally requested.

At issue in the case was an application brought by Guyton to become the successor executor of her father’s estate after she successfully moved to remove her mother as the executrix of the Estate for having handled the estate inappropriately. At the hearing on Guyton’s application to be appointed as the successor executor, her mother’s attorneys objected on one single ground: they alleged Guyton to be disqualified to serve as executrix because she has been convicted of a misdemeanor charge of writing a bad check several years prior to the probate hearing.

At the hearing, the trial judge specifically found that the misdemeanor conviction did not disqualify her to be an executrix. However, because of the litigation that had existed in the case prior to that hearing, the Judge refused to appoint Guyton citing what he perceived to be family conflict. Although F+B had cited the Judge to significant case law that stated that conflicts between family members do not disqualify someone from serving as the executrix, the Judge found otherwise.

In rendering its opinion, the Court of Appeals pointed out that the trial judge abused his discretion because there was no evidence to support his ruling. It also cited the fact that Guyton’s mother bore the burden to prove that Guyton was not qualified to serve as the Executrix, but they failed to do so. The Court of Appeals also pointed out that any perceived conflict of interest among family members cannot be a proper basis to disqualify someone to serve as an executor of an estate. Rather, there must be a conflict between that person and the interests of the estate, not the other family members. If every person who had a potential conflict with another family member were disqualified to serve as executor of an estate, virtually no estate in the country would be administered by a family member as there is always a conflict between family members, or at least a “potential” conflict, as was the concern by the judge in Guyton’s case.

F+B represented Guyton in both the trial and the appeal of this case. We are proud of the results we were able to achieve for Courtney Guyton, but more importantly, we are happy with an outcome in this case that truly reflects the correct interpretation of the law.

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