Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, Texarkana
Submitted: September 12, 2017
Appeal from the County Court at Law Bowie County, Texas Trial
Court No. 41, 426-CCL
Morriss, C.J., Moseley and Burgess, JJ.
R. Morriss, III Chief Justice.
December 2014, Dorothy Johnson applied to be named
Independent Administrator of the relatively modest
decedent's estate of Bobby Ray Singleton, who had died
apparently without a will and as a still-single widower. In
late March 2016, at least in part supported by various
affidavits apparently sponsored by Johnson, the County Court
at Law of Bowie County entered two orders, one appointing
Johnson as Dependent Administrator of the Estate of
Bobby Singleton, Deceased, and the other declaring that
Singleton had died intestate, leaving a single heir, his son,
Jahsaun Arnett. Johnson promptly signed an oath of office as
Dependent Administrator and thus qualified for that office.
the next year, Johnson and Arnett apparently became
over a year after the 2016 orders, on April 6, 2017, after
Arnett and Johnson had become adversaries in the court, the
trial court entered its order reciting, again, that Arnett
was the sole heir, finding that Arnett had turned eighteen
years of age and was therefore an adult, finding that there
were no claims approved against the estate, finding that the
estate had certain specific assets but no debts, vesting
title to the estate assets in Arnett, and closing the estate.
joined by her husband, David Johnson, appeal, complaining of
three allegedly improper actions of the trial court: (A)
ordering a dependent administration, (B) declaring Arnett to
be the sole heir, and (C) denying the Johnson creditor's
claim against the Estate. We affirm the trial court's
actions, because (1) we are without jurisdiction to review
the order granting a dependent administration or the order
naming Arnett the sole heir and (2) to the extent other
cognizable issues urged by Johnson can be discerned by this
Court, they fail.
We Are Without Jurisdiction to Review the Order Granting a
Dependent Administration or the Order Naming Arnett the Sole
appellate challenges to the order for a dependent
administration and to the order declaring Arnett as the sole
heir must fail here, because those issues must have been
challenged on appeal in 2016, within the time for appeal
after they were decided by the trial court. Here, the trial
court signed, on March 30, 2016, both its Judgment Declaring
Heirship, which named Arnett as the sole heir, and its Order
Granting Letters of Administration, which ordered the
dependent administration. As explained below, the two 2016
orders were final and appealable when rendered, and an
attempted appeal of those orders that is filed in excess of
one year later comes too late.
ordinary appeal, a "notice of appeal must be filed
within 30 days after the judgment is signed, " except
under one of the exceptions set out by Rule 26.1 of the Texas
Rules of Appellate Procedure, none of which are applicable
here. See Tex. R. App. P. 26.1. If an appeal is
late, the court of appeals is without jurisdiction to hear
that appeal. Thomas v. Davis, 553 S.W.2d 624, 626
(Tex. 1977). Generally, appeals may be taken only from final
judgments. De Ayala v. Mackie, 193 S.W.3d 575, 578
dealing with decedents' estates, however, there may be
more than one final, appealable judgment. Id.
"A final order issued by a probate court is appealable
to the court of appeals." Tex. Est. Code Ann. §
32.001(c) (West 2014).
the years, the question of when a court order in a
decedent's estate is final and appealable has not been
entirely clear in all cases. See De Ayala, 193
S.W.3d at 578; see also Crowson v. Wakeham, 897
S.W.2d 779, 783 (Tex. 1995). If a statute expressly declares
an order ending a particular phase of a probate case to be
final, the statute controls. De Ayala, 193 S.W.3d at
578; Crowson, 897 S.W.2d at 783. If, however, there
is no governing statutory declaration of finality, a probate
order is considered final and appealable if the order
effectively disposes of a proceeding within, or a particular
phase of, the probate case; otherwise, it is interlocutory.
De Ayala, 193 S.W.3d at 578; Crowson, 897
S.W.2d at 783.
judgment in a proceeding to declare heirship is a final
judgment." Tex. Est. Code Ann. § 202.202(a) (West
2014). Such a judgment is subject to the same time limits for
appeal as other probate judgments. Tex. Est. Code Ann. §
202.202(b) (West 2014). Therefore, the March 2016 order
determining that Arnett was the sole heir of Singleton was
final and appealable. See Young v. First Cmty. Bank,
N.A.,222 S.W.3d 454, 456 (Tex. App-Houston ...