In addition to the latter jurisdiction, Texas statutory probate courts are given broad jurisdiction over many other types of cases that are related to decedent’s estates, guardianships, and trusts. The North Texas area happens to have almost half of all of the statutory probate courts in Texas within a 60-mile radius of each other.
Texas has only 18 statutory probate courts around the State of Texas in 10 of the 15 largest metropolitan areas in the state, as follows:
- Dallas (3) – Dallas County Probate Court, Dallas County Probate Court, No. 2 and Dallas County, Probate Court, No. 3
- Fort Worth (2) – Tarrant County Probate Court, No. 1 and Tarrant County Probate Court, No. 2.
- Denton (1) – Denton County Probate Court
- Plano, Frisco, McKinney (1) – Collin County Probate Court
- El Paso (2) – El Paso County Probate Court No. 1 and El Paso County Probate Court No. 2
- Austin (1) – Travis County Probate Court
- San Antonio (2) – Bexar County Probate Court No. 1 and Bexar County Probate No. 2
- Houston (4) – Harris County Probate Court No. 1, Harris County Probate Court No. 2, Harris County Probate Court No. 3 and Harris County Probate Court No.4
- Galveston (1) – Galveston County Probate Court
- Hidalgo (1) – Hidalgo County Probate Court
In the counties that contain statutory probate courts, the statutory probate courts have exclusive jurisdiction over probate matters, which primarily include decedent’s estates. The statutory probate courts have exclusive jurisdiction over guardianships. The statutory probate courts also have jurisdiction to hear all matters that relate to estates and guardianships.
The statutory probate courts also have concurrent jurisdiction over trusts and matters relating to trusts. Statutory probate courts also have the power to transfer (reach out and grab) cases from other courts, if they are related to an estate or probate matter and will promote judicial economy.
In most counties without statutory probate courts, there is a county court that hears basic, uncontested probate matters and a county court at law that has jurisdiction over contested probate matters. In those counties without a statutory probate court or a county court at law (less populated counties), there are mechanisms of obtaining a specialized judge to hear contested probate matters. This can be a real advantage to all parties involved when dealing with complex estate litigation issues. In addition, any probate ruling from a statutory probate court is appealable to the court of appeals, so in that sense, statutory probate courts, when they have jurisdiction, are the same as any other court for appellate purposes.
It is important to hire an attorney to help wade through all of the jurisdictional issues of probate matters. Sometimes jurisdiction and venue issues are difficult, just because of the legal ramifications, but, on occasion properly addressing jurisdiction and venue, can offer an advantage to a party-litigant. But, you have to have an attorney to assist you with such legal wranglings. We at Spencer & Johnson, PLLC can assist you and hopefully develop a strategy to deal with the probate system that will fit the particular needs of your case.