Mobil Oil Corp. v. Shores, 128 S.W.3d 718 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 2004, no pet. h.).
Trustees sued Defendant to recover under-paid carbon dioxide royalties arising from interests held in trust in statutory probate court. The issue arose whether the statutory probate court had subject matter jurisdiction of Trustees’ claims. The appellate court examined the applicable (1999) versions of Probate Code §§ 5 & 5A and concluded that the statutory probate court lacked jurisdiction.
The court explained that Trustees’ claims did not fall within any of the enumerations in the Probate Code and thus before the statutory probate court had jurisdiction, it must first be established that the district court had jurisdiction under Trust Code § 115.001. Trustee’s cause of action is not expressly listed in this section. However, Trustees argued that the proceeding was nonetheless one “concerning” a trust under § 115.001(a)(6) or (a)(7) because the Trust Code grants trustees the ability to enter into mineral leases and to contest claims by or against a trust.
The court rejected this argument stating that “[t]he mere fact that a plaintiff happens to be a trustee, however, does not transfer a case into one ‘concerning trusts.’” Id. at 725. Accordingly, because the District Court did not have jurisdiction over this case under the Trust Code, the co-extensive jurisdiction of the statutory probate court was not triggered.
Note: See also Shell Cortez Pipeline Co. v. Shores, 127 S.W.3d 286 (Tex. App.—Fort Worth 2004, no pet. h.).
Moral: As stated by the court, “[t]he mere fact that a plaintiff happens to be a trustee * * * does not transfer a case into one ‘concerning trusts.’” Thus, a statutory probate court does not have jurisdiction over a case merely because the plaintiff is a trustee.
Important Note: The 2005 Texas Legislature effectively overruled Mobil Oil by amending Probate Code § 5(e) to provide that the statutory probate court has jurisdiction over all actions “by or against a trustee.” The change applies only to an action filed on or after September 1, 2005.