Sanders v. Hart

Decision Date16 April 1943
Docket NumberNo. 2350.,2350.
Citation171 S.W.2d 531
PartiesSANDERS et al. v. HART et al.
CourtTexas Court of Appeals

Appeal from District Court, Palo Pinto County; Ernest Belcher, Judge.

Proceeding by S. W. Hart and others for a writ of certiorari against Mrs. Bertha Sanders and husband to set aside a county court order appointing Mrs. Sanders as administratrix of the estate of Mrs. M. J. Hart, deceased. From a judgment setting aside the order, Mrs. Sanders appeals.


J. W. Stovall, of San Angelo, W. O. Gross, of Mineral Wells, and Allen & Gambill, of Fort Worth, for appellant.

Ritchie & Ritchie, of Mineral Wells, and Baylor B. Brown, of Fort Worth, for appellees.

GRISSOM, Justice.

Mrs. M. J. Hart died intestate in the county of her residence, Palo Pinto County, on October 16, 1937. The following are her surviving heirs at law: Mrs. Bertha Sanders, Edgar T. Hart, Sr., George Hart, Arch Hart, Scott W. Hart, who are her surviving sons and daughters, and C. S. Hart, Jr., and Jere Hart, who are her grandsons. On July 24, 1941, Mrs. Bertha Sanders filed application for appointment as Administratrix of her mother's estate. In August, 1941, Mrs. Sanders was appointed administratrix and qualified and filed an inventory and appraisement of said estate. Thereafter, Mrs. Sanders, as administratrix, joined pro forma by her husband, filed suit in the District Court of Palo Pinto County against Hart Cattle Co., Edgar T. Hart, Jr., Laura Hart, Edgar T. Hart, Scott W. Hart, J. E. Hobson and Ethel Southall to recover title and possession of the property conveyed by Mrs. Hart to Hart Cattle Company and S. W. Hart, trustee, as hereinafter shown. Mrs. Sanders, administratrix, alleged that the conveyances by Mrs. Hart, shortly prior to her death, were made for the purpose of creating a trust for the use and benefit of Mrs. M. J. Hart during her lifetime and for her heirs and legal representatives after her death.

On October 23, 1941, S. W. Hart, Edgar T. Hart and Hart Cattle Company, a corporation, as plaintiffs, filed in the District Court of Palo Pinto County a petition for writ of certiorari against Mrs. Sanders and her husband, as defendants, for the purpose of setting aside the order of the County Court appointing Mrs. Sanders administratrix. Plaintiffs alleged that Mrs. M. J. Hart, at the time of her death, owned no property and owed no debts, and that there was no necessity for an administration upon her estate; that Mrs. Sanders had obtained appointment as Administratrix for the sole purpose of prosecuting, as administratrix, a suit against Hart Cattle Company, and others, for the recovery of property which Mrs. Sanders claims belongs to her mother's estate; that it was not necessary that an administratrix of Mrs. Hart's estate be appointed for the sole purpose of prosecuting a claim against third parties for recovery of supposed properties of a deceased person in the absence of any indebtedness and in the absence of any property on hand in the estate to be partitioned among the heirs; that plaintiffs did not know of the appointment of an administratrix until October 10, 1941.

Upon a trial of the certiorari proceeding the District Court found that at date of her death Mrs. Hart owned no property and owed no debts; that there was no necessity for an administration upon the estate of Mrs. M. J. Hart; that there was a suit pending in the District Court brought by Mrs. Sanders, as administratrix, against the Hart Cattle Company et al., seeking to recover, for the use of the estate of Mrs. M. J. Hart, deceased, title and possession of ranch land and livestock in Palo Pinto County; that said suit is being prosecuted by Mrs. Sanders, as administratrix, in good faith, and if recovery is had, said ranch lands and livestock will be partitioned. (It was agreed that, if permitted, Mrs. Sanders will amend her petition and charge that the conveyances were obtained by S. W. and Edgar T. Hart by fraud and undue influence.) The District Court concluded that the County Court erred in appointing Mrs. Sanders administratrix of the estate of Mrs. M. J. Hart, deceased, and that said order should be set aside. Judgment was entered accordingly. Mrs. Sanders has appealed.

Defendant's points upon which she relies for reversal, briefly stated, are: The Court erred in holding: (1) That Mrs. Hart owned no property at the time of her death; (2) that there was no necessity for administration; (3) that Mrs. Sanders' desire to have the County Court partition the estate forms no basis for an administration under Subdivision 4, Art. 3370, Vernon's Ann.Civ.St.; (4) that Hart Cattle Company, S. W. Hart, and Edgar T. Hart are "persons interested in the estate", authorized by Art. 932 to have the proceedings of the County Court revised by certiorari; and (5) in annulling the order of the County Court appointing Mrs. Sanders administratrix without making all of the heirs of Mrs. Hart parties to such proceeding.

The trial in the District Court was upon an agreed statement of facts and exhibits. The following facts, among others, were agreed upon:

On November 7, 1936, Mrs. M. J. Hart, a widow, owned 5,717 acres of ranch land in Palo Pinto and Stephens Counties and 250 head of livestock. On said date she and J. L. Hobson and Ethel Southall executed the charter of the Hart Cattle Company and Mrs. Hart executed a deed to all of her land to Hart Cattle Co. On November 20, 1936, stock certificates were issued to the incorporators, and a certificate was issued to Mrs. Hart for 998 of the 1,000 shares issued. November 21, 1936, Mrs. Hart executed a transfer of this stock certificate to S. W. Hart as trustee for E. T. Hart, Jr., and Laura Hart, her grandchildren. The same day the board of directors of the Cattle Company elected officers and S. W. Hart was employed as general manager. Mrs. Hart executed a bill of sale to her cattle and personal property to Hart Cattle Co. In consideration of the bill of sale, the Cattle Company agreed to pay for the care and support of Mrs. Hart during the remainder of her life. (It was agreed that the corporation carried out this agreement.)

Immediately following Mrs. Hart's death, the Cattle Company paid the expenses of her last sickness and funeral. The Cattle Company has paid the taxes on the ranch and cattle for the year 1937 and all subsequent years prior to the time they would have become delinquent. The Cattle Company each year has paid income taxes due in connection with the operation of the ranch and cattle business. In August, 1941, when Mrs. Sanders was appointed administratrix, no claims were being asserted for any unpaid income tax of the Cattle Company, or the estate of Mrs. Hart. On October 16, 1937, the Lone Star Gas Co. held an indebtedness on which Mrs. Hart and others were liable amounting to over $30,000. This debt was paid about December 1, 1937. In August, 1941, when Mrs. Sanders was appointed administratrix, there was no part of said debt and no ad valorem taxes due or owing on the properties mentioned, except for the current year, 1941. In October, 1937, the net value of Mrs. Hart's ranch, cattle, and other personal property was less than $40,000. In August, 1941, the record title to all the property described in the inventory and appraisement made by Mrs. Sanders as administratrix was in the name of Hart Cattle Company. Four tracts included therein were bought by the Cattle Company long after the death of Mrs. Hart. The Pollard, Hamilton and Abbas notes, listed in Mrs. Sanders' inventory as debts of the estate, were notes given by the Cattle Company in the purchase of other land and in borrowing money long after the death of Mrs. Hart. Mrs. Sanders is not asserting the existence of any debts other than those just mentioned.

The principal question presented is whether the foregoing facts show a necessity for administration, as required by Art. 3370.

Where a person has conveyed all of his property during his lifetime and the title and possession thereof has passed to others, and such person dies intestate and owes no debts, there is no necessity for the appointment of an administrator for the sole purpose of permitting one of the heirs to file a suit, as administrator, to recover title and possession of such property. Under the circumstances the heir, as such, may bring a suit in the District Court to cancel his ancestor's conveyances and partition the property. Frame v. Whitaker, 120 Tex. 53, 36 S.W.2d 149; Giddings v. Steele, 28 Tex. 732, 748, 91 Am.Dec. 336; Cooper v. Gulf, C. & S. F. Ry. Co., 41 Tex.Civ.App. 596, 93 S.W. 201, 205; 13 Tex.Jur. 744; Walker v. Abercrombie, 61 Tex. 69, 72; McIntyre v. Chappell, 4 Tex. 187, 192; Powell v. Stephenson, Tex.Civ. App., 189 S.W. 570; Merriweather v. Kennard, 41 Tex. 273, 276; John Hancock Mutual Life Ins. Co. v. Morse, 132 Tex. 534, 124 S.W.2d 330; Hynes v. Winston, Tex.Civ.App., 54 S.W. 1069; Angier v. Jones, 28 Tex.Civ.App. 402, 67 S.W. 449, 451, writ refused; Henry v. McNew, 29 Tex.Civ.App. 288, 69 S.W. 213, 216, writ refused; Owen v. Free, Tex.Civ.App., 85 S.W.2d 1090, reversed on other grounds, 131 Tex. 281, 113 S.W.2d 1221; Neelen v. Holzhauer, 193 Wis. 196, 214 N.W. 497, 53 A.L.R. 359; Simkins Administration of Estates, p. 45. Appeal of Beach, 76 Conn. 118, 55 A. 596; Rawleigh Co. v. Childers, Tex.Civ.App., 132 S.W.2d 434; Hanrick v. Gurley, 93 Tex. 458, 472, 54 S.W. 347, 55 S.W. 119, 56 S.W. 330.

Under the circumstances outlined, we see no reason why the cause of action, if it exists, cannot be asserted by Mrs. Sanders as an heir in the District Court...

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4 cases
  • Pitner v. United States
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Fifth Circuit
    • December 18, 1967
    ...being administered. 5 Solomon v. Skinner, 1891, 82 Tex. 345, 18 S.W. 698; Patterson v. Allen, 1878, 50 Tex. 23, 25-26; Sanders v. Hart, Tex. Civ.App.1943, 171 S.W.2d 531, writ ref'd w.o.m.; Angier v. Jones, 1902, 28 Tex. Civ.App. 402, 67 S.W. 449, no 6 After listing the purposes of administ......
  • Jacob's Estate, In re
    • United States
    • Arizona Supreme Court
    • December 28, 1956
    ...death. In a Texas case strikingly similar to that under consideration here, the court squarely met that precise issue; Sanders v. Hart, Tex.Civ.App., 171 S.W.2d 531. There an administratrix sought to recover livestock and real estate of an intestate though there were no debts and though dec......
  • In re Campbell's Estate
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • June 15, 1944
    ...hence no necessity whatever, within the meaning of our so recently enacted law, was shown for any administration. In Sanders v. Hart, Tex.Civ.App., 171 S.W.2d 531, there being no debts and no property to partition shown, the court, in effect, determined that no administration was warranted,......
  • Lindley v. Lindley, 14824.
    • United States
    • Texas Court of Appeals
    • February 21, 1947
    ...that the pending suit in district court was such a property right as to support administration. Contestant relies upon Sanders v. Hart, Tex.Civ.App., 171 S.W.2d 531, writ refused want of merit, in support of the judgment appealed from. Both of the cited cases have some phases similar to the......

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