In re Estate of Stanton, 202 S.W.3d 205 (Tex. App.—Tyler 2005, pet. denied).
After Temporary Administrator’s appointment expired under
A. Determination of Heirship – Authority of Attorney ad Litem
The court explained the Attorney Ad Litem had standing to oppose the applications and request the appointment of an independent third-party administrator. The Attorney Ad Litem owes the same duty to the unknown heirs as he would owe to clients who expressly employ him. If the unknown heirs had been present, they could have opposed the applications and requested the appointment of an independent third-party administrator and thus Attorney Ad Litem had both the standing and the authority to do so as well.
Moral: The attorney ad litem for unknown heirs may take all actions for the unknown clients as the attorney ad litem could take for actual known clients.
B. Appointment of Administrator – Unsuitability
The court rejected Temporary Administrator’s argument that
the probate court abused its discretion in appointing a third party as the
administrator because the applicants had higher priority under
Moral: Taking actions that require court authorization without obtaining that authorization is sufficient grounds for a court to determine that the person is unsuitable to serve as a personal representative.
C. Award of Attorney’s Fees
The probate court denied Temporary Administrator’s request for attorney’s fees because it could not distinguish the fees for work he performed as a temporary administrator from the legal fees for his services, some of which were for services not authorized by the probate court. However, the probate court indicated that he could refile his application. The appellate court determined that the refusal was justified and that Temporary Administrator still had the possibility of recovering a portion of the requested fees upon making an appropriate application.
Moral: A temporary administrator should perform only those actions authorized by the court. A temporary administrator who is also an attorney should separately identify the services performed in each capacity.
D. Expenses of Attorney ad Litem
The appellate court agreed that the probate court had the
power to order a deposit from estate funds to be paid to the attorney ad litem
for expenses which would be incurred in investigating the large number of
Moral: A personal representative needs to be prepared to make a deposit for the expenses of the attorney ad litem.
The appellate court determined that the amount of bond set
for the administrator was proper because it exceeded the value of the property
except for the property that had already been placed in safekeeping.
Moral: Bond may be reduced by the amount of estate property placed in safekeeping.