IN THE MATTER OF THE ESTATE OF MILDRED L. ETHRIDGE, DECEASED
Appeal from the County Court at Law Midland County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. P10778
consists of: Bailey, C.J., Stretcher, J., and Wright, S.C.J.
will-construction case, Appellant, Fred D. Davis Jr., appeals
the trial court's "Order Determining Estate
Distribution" and "Final Order to Remove Executor
and Appoint Successor." Appellant raises two issues: (1)
whether the trial court erred in finding that the term
"personal effects" did not refer to "cash,
receivables, interest in oil, gas or other minerals,
royalties, [or] real property"; and (2) whether the
trial court erred in finding that Appellant had misapplied
property entrusted to his care in violation of his fiduciary
duties and Section 404.003(2) of the Texas Estates Code.
Because we conclude that the trial court properly construed
the will at issue and properly removed Appellant as executor,
1990, Mildred L. Ethridge executed a one-page typewritten
will that she drafted without consulting an attorney. In
relevant part, the will stated:
I, MILDRED L. ETHRIDGE, (femme sole) of Midland County,
Texas, for the purpose of the distribution of my entire
estate, real, personal and mixed, which I wish to have take
effect at my death, do make, publish and declare this to be
my Last Will and Testament, and I do hereby revoke all former
wills and testamentaries heretofore made by me at any time.
I hereby appoint and name Fred D. Davis, Jr. as Independent
Executor and trustee of my estate, to serve without bond. I
give Fred D. Davis, Jr. all my personal effects to clear my
estate after my death.
I give and bequeath my one half (1/2) ownership in my
residence and homestead situated on the East 53 feet of Lot
5, West 16.9 feet of Lot 4, Block 1, Oxford Heights to
was Mildred's nephew-in-law. Mildred died on January 9,
1994, and her will was admitted to probate on April 7, 1994.
Prior to her death, Mildred gifted the Oxford Heights
residence to someone else, leaving Appellant as the only
other person possibly named as beneficiary under the
will. The county court at law authorized
Appellant to receive "Letters Testamentary" as the
independent executor of Mildred's estate. Appellant filed
an inventory of the estate. In the inventory, Part A
described the money in Mildred's checking account, and
Part B listed miscellaneous property that Mildred owned at
the time of her death, including furniture and a television.
death, Mildred also owned mineral royalties that were not
specifically devised in her will or included in the
inventory. After the will was probated, Enterprise Crude Oil
LLC began paying royalties to Mildred's estate. Appellant
opened a bank account for the estate to receive the funds.
Believing he was entitled to the entire estate, Appellant
transferred the funds into his personal account. Appellant
and his wife, June Ethridge Davis, spent the funds on items
unrelated to the estate.
2010, Mildred's heirs discovered they were possibly
entitled to the royalty payments from Mildred's estate.
On July 8, 2014, Mildred's great-nephew, John Wright
Ethridge Jr., sent a letter to Appellant requesting an
accounting of the estate pursuant to ...