IN THE GUARDIANSHIP OF THE ESTATE OF L. S., A MINOR
Appeal from the Probate Court No. 1 Harris County, Texas
Trial Court Cause Nos. 425, 238, 407, 499, 407, 499-401, 407,
consists of Justices Busby, Donovan, and Brown.
Brett Busby Justice
Valentina Sheshtawy brings two appeals from separate causes
in the probate court. In her first appeal, Valentina
challenges two orders signed by the probate
court. One order authorized the guardian of the
estate of Valentina's daughter, L.S., to enter into an
agreement that settled L.S.'s interest in her deceased
father's estate. The other order declared Valentina a
vexatious litigant. Because Valentina has not demonstrated
that the probate court abused its discretion when it signed
the challenged orders, we overrule Valentina's issues in
her first appeal and affirm the two orders.
second appeal, Valentina, making the same arguments as in her
first appeal, argues that the probate court erred when it
denied her motion for new trial on the court's vexatious
litigant finding. Because Valentina has not demonstrated
that the probate court abused its discretion when it allowed
her motion for new trial to be overruled by operation of law,
we overrule her issue and affirm the trial court's order.
Sheshtawy died intestate on August 8, 2011. At the time of
his death, Adel had two adult children, Nader Sheshtawy and
Hanya Sustache, and a minor child, L.S. Valentina is
Cause Numbers 407, 499, 407, 499-401, and 407, 499-402 are
filed and settled.
Adel's death, his brother, Farouk Sheshtawy, filed a
purported will for probate. A will contest was filed soon
thereafter. Valentina eventually filed suit seeking a
declaration that she was Adel's common-law wife and was
entitled to receive one-third of Adel's estate. This
matter was assigned cause number 407, 499. The probate court
appointed Michael Fuqua the temporary administrator of
allegation that she was Adel's common-law wife with an
interest in the estate was severed into a separate action and
assigned cause number 407, 499-401. Nader and Hanya filed an
answer and counterclaim challenging Valentina's
common-law marriage claim. In response to Nader and
Hanya's motion, the probate court appointed Cameron
McCulloch L.S.'s attorney ad litem.
had an ownership interest in three companies (Tri-Max
Industries, Inc., Drilling Tools, Inc., and Drill Bit
Industries), the assets of those companies, and various
brokerage accounts. Fuqua filed a petition for declaratory
judgment seeking to finalize the ownership of each of these.
Farouk, Nader, and Hanya subsequently filed counterclaims and
cross-claims. This dispute was assigned cause number 407,
499-402. Valentina was not a party to this case.
December 3, 2013, the parties-Farouk, Nader, Hanya, and L.S.,
through her guardian ad litem-settled all claims asserted in
cause numbers 407, 499 and 407, 499-402. Among other things,
the parties agreed that the purported will filed by Farouk
was not valid and Farouk averred that he was unaware of any
other will. The same day, the trial court signed an Agreed
Final Judgment based on the parties' settlement
agreement. Despite not being a party, Valentina filed a
single motion for new trial in both 407, 499 and 407, 499-402
asking the probate court to set aside the agreed final
judgment. The probate court denied Valentina's
motion on February 6, 2014. In the same order, the probate
court found that Valentina did not have standing to challenge
the December 3 settlement agreement.
28, 2013, the parties to cause number 407, 499-401 signed a Rule
11 and Final Settlement Agreement. The parties agreed, among
other things, that (1) Valentina would receive $145, 000 in
full and final settlement of all of her claims to Adel's
estate; (2) Valentina would waive any right she
had to serve as L.S'.s guardian in favor of Cameron
McCulloch, L.S.'s attorney ad litem, and she agreed that
McCulloch would be appointed L.S.'s permanent guardian of
L.S.'s estate; and (3) an heirship order would be entered
determining Hanya, Nader, and L.S. as Adel's sole heirs.
On July 17, 2013 the probate court signed an order approving
the agreement. Claiming to be acting as L.S.'s next
friend, Valentina filed a motion for rehearing of the trial
court's order approving the Rule 11 and Final Settlement
Agreement. The probate court denied the motion and found that
Valentina did not have standing as L.S.'s next friend to
challenge the settlement agreement.
Cause Number 425, 238 is filed and settled.
September 16, 2013 McCulloch filed an Application for
Appointment of Permanent Guardian of the Estate of L.S.
Despite previously agreeing to support McCulloch's
application, Valentina opposed McCulloch's appointment.
Nader and Hanya supported McCulloch's application,
however. The probate court appointed McCulloch the guardian
of L.S.'s estate in January 2014.
his appointment, McCulloch investigated the value of
Adel's estate. Once McCulloch had completed his
investigation, he negotiated with the other two heirs to
separate out and monetize L.S.'s one-third share of the
estate. The negotiations resulted in a Family Settlement
& Distribution Agreement in which the heirs agreed, among
other things, that L.S. would receive a residential property
appraised at a minimum value of $650, 000. Valentina was not
a party to this agreement.
sought the probate court's authorization to enter into
the Family Settlement & Distribution Agreement. The court
conducted a hearing and Valentina was allowed to voice her
objections to the agreement. Following the hearing, the
probate court signed an order ...