Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

In re Guardianship of Estate of L. S.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

April 18, 2017

IN THE GUARDIANSHIP OF THE ESTATE OF L. S., A MINOR

         On Appeal from the Probate Court No. 1 Harris County, Texas Trial Court Cause Nos. 425, 238, 407, 499, 407, 499-401, 407, 499-402

          Panel consists of Justices Busby, Donovan, and Brown.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          J. Brett Busby Justice

         Appellant 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.[1] 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.

         In her 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.[2] 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.

         Background

         Adel 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 L.S.'s mother.

         A. Cause Numbers 407, 499, 407, 499-401, and 407, 499-402 are filed and settled.

         After 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 Adel's estate.

         Valentina's 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.

         Adel 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.

         On 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.[3] 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.

         On May 28, 2013, the parties[4] 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;[5] (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.

         B. Cause Number 425, 238 is filed and settled.

         On 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.

         After 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.[6] Valentina was not a party to this agreement.

         McCulloch 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 ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.