Court of Appeals of Texas, Fifth District, Dallas
Appeal from the Probate Court No. 1 Dallas County, Texas
Trial Court Cause No. PR-19-00996-1
Justices Whitehill, Partida-Kipness, and Pedersen, III
interlocutory appeal arises from an application to probate a
will filed by appellees in Dallas County. Appellants took
issue with venue in Dallas County and filed a motion to
transfer venue to Wichita County. The Dallas County probate
court denied appellants' motion. Appellants filed this
appeal seeking interlocutory review of the probate
court's order denying the motion to transfer venue. We
dismiss the appeal for want of jurisdiction.
Dallas resident William L. Griffith executed a will in 2010
devising certain property to appellee Rodney Wauson and
listing appellee Randall Wauson as contingent beneficiary.
Griffith was diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer's in
2014, and Rodney filed an application to be appointed
Griffith's guardian in 2015. Appellants, Griffith's
niece and nephew Frances D. Lenox and Gordon Griffith,
contested Rodney's application. The parties executed a
family settlement agreement in which Griffith's Dallas
home would be sold and appellants would move Griffith to a
memory care facility in Wichita Falls, where appellants live.
Appellants moved Griffith to Wichita Falls, as agreed. He
died there on March 14, 2019.
filed an application to probate the 2010 will in Dallas
County. Appellants filed an opposition to the application,
claiming the 2010 will was revoked by a will Griffith
executed in 2015. Appellants also filed a motion to transfer
venue to Wichita County on the grounds that Griffith resided
and was domiciled there at the time of his death.
probate court denied appellants' motion and concluded
that venue was proper in Dallas County under Section
33.001(a) of the Texas Estates Code. Appellants seek review
of the probate court's interlocutory venue determination.
preliminary matter, we must determine whether this court has
jurisdiction to hear this case as a direct interlocutory
appeal. Generally, parties may only appeal from a final
judgment. Brittingham-Sada de Ayala v. Mackie, 193
S.W.3d 575, 578 (Tex. 2006) (citing Lehmann v. Har- Con
Corp., 39 S.W.3d 191, 195 (Tex. 2001)); Fernandez v.
Bustamante, 305 S.W.3d 333, 337 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th
Dist.] 2010, no pet.); but see Tex. Civ. Prac. &
Rem. Code Ann. 51.014(a) (listing interlocutory orders that
are appealable). A trial court's venue determination is
generally interlocutory and not reviewable until final
judgment. See Civ. Prac. & Rem. §
15.064(a); Tex.R.Civ.P. 87(6). The Texas Supreme Court has
construed Section 15.064 and Rule 87 together, holding that
"once a venue determination has been made, that
determination is conclusive as to those parties and
claims." In re Team Rocket, L.P., 256 S.W.3d
257, 260 (Tex. 2008) (orig. proceeding).
a proceeding to admit a will to probate. We recognize an
exception to the general rule requiring a final judgment in
probate proceedings because multiple judgments may be
rendered on discrete issues before the entire probate
proceeding is concluded. See Brittingham- Sada de
Ayala, 193 S.W.3d at 578 (citing Lehmann, 39
S.W.3d at 192). But not all probate orders are appealable.
Id. Unless there is an "express statute . . .
declaring the phase of the probate proceedings to be final
and appealable," Crowson v. Wakeham, 897 S.W.2d
779, 783 (Tex. 1995), the probate order must have
"sufficient attributes of finality to confer appellate
jurisdiction" by adjudicating a "substantial
right" or disposing of "all issues in the phase of
the proceeding for which it was brought." See
Brittingham-Sada de Ayala, 193 S.W.3d at 578. (reviewing
authorities); see also Grounds v. Lett, 718 S.W.2d
38, 39 (Tex. App.-Dallas 1986, no writ) (holding an order is
not appealable if it does not adjudicate a substantial right
but would lead to further hearings on the issue); In re
Guardianship of Murphy, 1 S.W.3d 171, 173 (Tex. App.-
Fort Worth 1999, no pet.) (same); see,
e.g., Tex. Est. Code § 202.202 (permitting
appeal from a judgment declaring heirship). Parties are urged
"to seek severance orders to eliminate ambiguities about
whether the order was intended to be final and
appealable." Brittingham-Sada de Ayala, 193
S.W.3d at 578 (citing Crowson, 897 S.W.2d at 783).
Texas Estates Code establishes mandatory venue for "a
probate proceeding to admit a will to probate or for the
granting of letters testamentary or of administration."
Est. § 33.001. There is no "express statute"
allowing interlocutory appeal from a venue determination in
such proceedings. See Crowson, 897 S.W.2d at 783
(generally requiring an express statute to make an
interlocutory order appealable); Fernandez, 305
S.W.3d at 339 (holding that interlocutory appeal was not
permitted under Section 6 of the Texas Probate Code,
predecessor to Section 33.001 of the Estates Code); see
also Chevriere v. Mitchell, No. 01-18-00761-CV, 2019 WL
1996498, at *2 (Tex. App.-Houston [1st Dist.] May 7, 2019, no
pet.) (citing Fernandez and holding the same under
section 33.001 of the Estates Code); In re Estate of
Fears, No. 06-03-00139-CV, 2004 WL 111423, at *2 (Tex.
App.-Texarkana Jan. 22, 2004, no pet.) ("[T]here is no
specific provision allowing an interlocutory appeal of a
probate venue determination."); In re Estate of
Aguilar, 435 S.W.3d 831, 833 (Tex. App.-San Antonio
2014, no pet.) (dismissing appeal from probate court's
venue transfer under Section 34.001 of the Estates Code for
lack of jurisdiction).
probate court's order denying appellants' motion to
transfer venue does not affect the substantial rights of any
party and does not dispose of all issues and parties, thus it
is not appealable. See Crowson, 897 S.W.2d at 783;
Grounds, 718 S.W.2d at 39 (holding a probate
court's denial of a motion to transfer venue is not final
argue that the probate court's venue determination is
appealable under Section 15.003 of the Civil Practice and
Remedies Code. Section 15.003 states, "In a suit in
which there is more than one plaintiff, whether the
plaintiffs are included by joinder, by intervention, because
the lawsuit was begun by more than one plaintiff, or
otherwise, each plaintiff must, independently of every other
plaintiff, establish proper venue." Civ. Prac. &
Rem. § 15.003(a). If a plaintiff cannot independently
establish venue in the case, that plaintiff's claims must
be transferred to a proper venue unless certain criteria are
met. Id. Section 15.003(b) permits interlocutory
appeal of "a trial court's determination" of
these criteria. Civ. Prac. & Rem. § 15.003(b). Thus,
Section 15.003 provides an exception ...