Court of Appeals of Texas, Thirteenth District, Corpus Christi-Edinburg
appeal from Probate Court No. 1 of Travis County, Texas.
Justices Benavides, Hinojosa, and Perkes
GREGORY T. PERKES JUSTICE
Evan Maupin (Patrick) appeals the trial court's order
admitting his wife's will to probate as a muniment of
title. See Tex. Est. Code Ann. § 31.001.
Patrick argues that the trial court erred when it enforced a
local rule prohibiting individuals acting pro se from
administering estates and denied his pro se application for
letters testamentary, instead issuing sua sponte a muniment
of title. We affirm.
Amanda Maupin (Janet) died on June 22, 2017, at her home in
Travis County, Texas. Janet left a self-proved will dated
November 28, 1988. The will named Patrick as independent
executor and sole beneficiary. On July 11, Patrick filed an
application pro se to probate Janet's will and issue
August 7, the trial court held a hearing. Patrick appeared
unrepresented and provided proof of Janet's death and
residency in Travis County. When asked by the trial court why
an administration was necessary, Patrick stated there were
"a few assets" located out of state, "some
balances on some accounts and credit cards and things,"
and "also a possible cause of action."
to the Travis County Probate Court's pro se policy,
court informed Patrick that he would need an attorney in
order to apply for letters testamentary. In the interim, the
trial court signed an order admitting the will to probate as
a muniment of title sua sponte. The court decreed, in
relevant part, as follows:
that all of the necessary proof required for the probate of
such will has been made; that such Will is entitled to
probate; that there are no unpaid debts owing by this Estate,
exclusive of any debt secured by liens on real estate; that
there is no necessity for administration of this estate . . .
Applicable Law and Analysis
court's ruling on a probate application is reviewed under
an abuse of discretion standard. In re Estate of
Gaines, 262 S.W.3d 50, 55 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th
Dist.] 2008, no pet.). A trial court abuses its discretion
when it acts arbitrarily, unreasonably, or without regard to
guiding legal principles. Elliott v. Weatherman, 396
S.W.3d 224, 228 (Tex. App.-Austin 2013, no pet.). A trial
court, however, does not abuse its discretion in complying
with a local rule that has not been previously challenged or
found to contradict the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
See Tex. R. Civ. P. 3a(1); see also Kenley v.
Quintana Petroleum Corp., 931 S.W.2d 318, 320-21 (Tex.
App.-San Antonio 1996, writ denied).
if an independent executor named in a will comes forward
within the statutory period for probating a will, offers it
for probate, and applies for letters testamentary, the court
has no discretionary power to refuse to issue letters to the
named executor unless he is otherwise disqualified under the
provisions set out in the Texas Estates Code. See
Tex. Est. Code Ann. § 304.003; see also Alford v.
Alford, 601 S.W.2d 408, 410 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th
Dist.] 1980, no writ).
primary contention on appeal is that the trial court abused
its discretion when the court, in accordance with its local
rules, denied his application for letters testamentary based
on his pro se status. See Tex. Est. Code Ann. §
257.001. Specifically, Patrick argues that the court's
policy is invalid under Rule 3a(1) of the Texas Rules of Civil
Procedure because it violates his right to
self-representation under Rule 7. See Tex. R. Civ.
P. 7; see also Ex parte Shaffer,649 S.W.2d 300, ...