For the Good Times: Texas Courts Have Broad Discretion to Preserve Estate Assets

Experienced Estate Planning Attorney Explains how Sugar Land, Texas Families can Preserve Estate Assets

Illustrating the broad discretion allowed by Texas trial courts when it comes to preserving assets – including assets within a decedent’s estate – a state appellate court recently agreed that a trial court judge did not commit legal error when the judge appointed a receiver to take possession of property subject to separate will contests regarding the estate of legendary country music singer and songwriter, Ray Price [see In re Estate of Price, No. 06–16–00062-CV (Jan. 26, 2017)]. According to the Court, while a Texas judge must be cautious in granting a request for the appointment of a receiver, it is within the power of the judge to do so where one of the parties may be irreparably harmed.

Ray Price Estate Fight

Ray Price, known for many songs, including “For the Good Times,” “I Won’t Mention It Again,” and “She’s Got To Be A Saint,” died in December 2013. His surviving spouse of many years, Janie Mae Price, and his son from a prior marriage, Cliff Price, filed competing motions to probate wills purportedly executed by Price. Each also filed a proceeding contesting the will offered by the other. The son also sought the appointment of a guardian, claiming that one week prior to his father’s death, his stepmother induced the singer, who was in his late 80s and in the hospital, to sign various deeds and assignment documents transferring ownership of significant properties to her. The trial court appointed a guardian of the assets and Price’s widow appealed.

Appeals Court Won’t Substitute its Judgment for that of Trial Court

The appellate court said it would not substitute its judgment for that of the trial court, and that there was some evidence that property of the estate was in danger of being lost, removed, or materially injured.

Required Findings Before Appointment of Receiver

The appellate court set forth the findings that were required in order to support the appointment of the receiver. The trial court must find:

  • That two or more parties are jointly interested in property
  • That the party seeking appointment of the receiver has “a probable interest in or right to the property or fund,”
  • That the property or fund is in danger of being lost, removed, or materially injured

In this case, the court ruled the son had met that burden. It is important to note that the appellate court specifically said Cliff Price was not required to show that he had no other adequate remedy.

Receiver Was Given Broad Powers

In the Price case, the trial court gave the receiver broad preservation powers. The receiver was allowed to take control of the disputed property that had been transferred by Ray Price shortly before his death. The receiver also was given the power to take control of books and records of the singer’s business and to petition the court if additional powers were needed.

Estate Disagreements Can Be Painful and Divisive

Texas BarToday Top Ten BadgeThe Ray Price estate dispute shows just how divisive and painful estate litigation can be. And yet, significant property interests are often at stake. Contesting or defending a will is usually a complex process. Seeking the appointment of a receiver takes legal skill and experience. The attorneys at Romano & Sumner have more than 20 years of combined experience providing expert legal assistance to clients. We have successfully represented parties in all sorts of estate and trust matters, from representing parties in will contests, to seeking the removal of executors and administrators in an estate. With our extensive litigation experience, we can take your case as far as necessary.

At Romano & Sumner, we pride ourselves not only on our professionalism, but also upon our client service. We know that each situation is unique. We return phone calls within one business day. We keep our clients well informed as to the status of their case. We complete the work within the allotted time frame. Call us at 281-242-0995 or complete our online contact form.

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    Romano & Sumner, PLLC

    Romano & Sumner, PLLC