Court of Appeals of Texas, Sixth District, Texarkana
IN THE ESTATE OF TERRANCE STEPHEN DANIELS, DECEASED
Submitted: January 23, 2019
Appeal from the County Court Morris County, Texas Trial Court
Morriss, C.J., Burgess and Stevens, JJ.
K. BURGESS JUSTICE
Terrance Daniels' death, his widow, LaStarza Luckey
Daniels, and a group of his other heirs filed competing
applications for independent administration of his estate.
After the homestead property was set aside and the temporary
administrator conveyed the interests in the property to
LaStarza and the heirs, LaStarza moved to dismiss the heirs
and their pleadings for lack of standing. The trial court
granted the motion.
appeal, the heirs contend that the trial court erred in
granting LaStarza's motion to dismiss because they have
standing as interested persons. We reverse the trial
court's order and remand the case for further proceedings
because the heirs are interested persons with standing.
Factual and Procedural Background
Daniels died intestate and without children. In the County
Court of Morris County, Texas, LaStarza filed an application
to determine heirship and an application for independent
administration of Terrance's estate in which she sought
to be appointed as administrator. Terrance's mother,
Jeannette Daniels, brother, Wesley D. Daniels, and sister,
Anita Rhodes, (the Heirs) filed a competing application for
independent administration in which they opposed
LaStarza's appointment as administrator and sought to
have either Jeannette appointed as administrator or
Jeannette, Wesley, and Anita appointed as co-administrators.
The competing applications were assigned to a statutory
probate judge,  the Honorable Oswin Chrisman, while the
heirship application was heard by the county court.
county court held that Terrance was survived by his spouse,
LaStarza, his mother, Jeannette, his brother, Wesley, his
sister, Anita, his two half-brothers, Derrick Brown and
Dwayne Daniels, and one half-sister, Shana
Brown. The property in Terrance's estate
consisted of various community property, separate personal
property, and separate real property. The court held that,
under the laws of descent and distribution, LaStarza was
entitled to all of the community property, all of the
separate personal property, and one-half of the separate real
property, which consisted of a house and lot in Naples,
Morris County, Texas, which was the couple's residence
and homestead. The remaining one-half interest in the
separate real property was to be distributed to the remaining
heirs as follows: one-fourth to Jeannette, one-fourteenth
each to Wesley and Anita, and one-twenty-eighth each to
Dwayne, Derrick, and Shana.
Chrisman set the contested applications for jury trial and
appointed LaStarza as temporary administrator until the
contested issues were resolved. LaStarza filed an application
to set aside the separate real property, the homestead, as
property exempt from the estate administration. After an
estate inventory, appraisement, and a list of claims were
filed and approved, the trial court, over the Heirs'
objection, granted LaStarza's application to set aside
the homestead for LaStarza's lifetime use. As per the
court's order, LaStarza, as temporary administrator,
conveyed legal title to the homestead to herself, in her
personal capacity, and all of Terrance's heirs in the
shares previously determined by the county court.
month prior to trial, LaStarza moved to dismiss "all
pleadings, claims and oppositions" of the Heirs because
they lacked standing. In the motion, LaStarza argued that,
because the homestead property had been removed from the
estate administration and the Heirs had already received the
only estate property to which they were entitled, they were
no longer heirs with a "property right in or claim
against an estate being administered." The Heirs filed a
response opposing the motion. After a hearing, the trial
court granted the motion, dismissed the Heirs' pleadings,
and named LaStarza as administrator. The Heirs appeal.
Issue Presented-Do the Heirs Have Standing?
their sole point of error on appeal, the Heirs contend that
the trial court erred in granting LaStarza's motion to
dismiss because, as Terrance's heirs, they are
"interested persons" under the Texas Estates Code
and therefore have standing.