Trusts - Jurisdiction

Carroll v. Carroll, 53 Tex. Sup. Ct. J. 245 (Tex. 2010).

Beneficiary sued Trustee for breach of duty in District Court. District Court transferred the case to County Court at Law and issued an order removing Trustee from office, awarding damages, and granting other relief. After a somewhat complicated lower appellate court decision, Trustee raised the issue of the County Court at Law’s jurisdiction for the first time when Trustee appealed to the Texas Supreme Court.

The Court agreed with Trustee that County Court at Law lacked jurisdiction and thus its judgment was void. The Court began its analysis by explaining that subject matter jurisdiction cannot be waived and thus it was permissible for Trustee to raise the issue at this time. The Court then studied Trust Code § 115.001 which grants district courts exclusive jurisdiction over trust matters except for certain situations not relevant to this case such as in counties where there is a statutory probate court. The Court examined the Government Code to see if any other ground existed to permit County Court at Law to have trust jurisdiction and found none. According, the County Court at Law’s judgment was void and it must transfer the case back to District Court.

Moral: Except for the limited exceptions in Trust Code § 115.001(d), cases involving trusts are heard in district courts.