There are a variety of types of courts in Texas that have jurisdiction over different kinds of cases. In this article we will generally discuss the Texas court system and explain how probate courts fit within that structure. Austin probate lawyer Farren Sheehan is experienced in court settings and can assist with probate and other court proceedings in all courts in Austin, Round Rock, Pflugerville and Cedar Park.
The Texas Court System
The basic structure of the Texas court system was established by the Texas Constitution. In Texas, the highest state appellate court for civil matters is the Texas Supreme Court, and the Court of Criminal Appeals makes the final decisions in criminal matters. Below these highest courts there are 14 courts of appeals that exercise intermediate appellate jurisdiction in both civil and criminal cases.
State trial courts of general jurisdiction are known as district courts. Each district court serves a geographical area established by the specific statute creating that court.
In addition to these state courts, each county has a county court established by the Texas Constitution. The constitutional county court is run by the county judge, who also serves as head of the county commissioners court, the governing body of the county. To assist the constitutional county court with judicial duties, Texas law created statutory county courts, generally known as county courts at law or statutory probate courts, in the more populous counties.
The Texas Constitution also authorizes justice of the peace (“JP”) courts in each county, that generally have exclusive jurisdiction of civil matters when the amount in controversy is under $200, and concurrent jurisdiction with the county courts when the amount in controversy is between $200 and $10,000. The JP courts also have jurisdiction in misdemeanor cases where punishment upon conviction may be by fine only.
Finally, each incorporated city in the state has municipal courts, with original jurisdiction over violations of municipal ordinances and concurrent jurisdiction with the justice courts over misdemeanor state law violations, limited to the geographical confines of the city or municipality. Municipal courts also have civil jurisdiction in a few limited types of cases.
Texas Statutory Probate Courts
Under the Texas Constitution, jurisdiction over probate matters belongs to either the constitutional county court or to the district court. Probate matters include the administration of estates of deceased persons, Will contests, guardianship of minors and incapacitated persons, and mental illness matters.
Probate matters might be heard in the county court, county court at law, statutory probate court, or district court of a particular county. In some counties, the county court at law may have concurrent jurisdiction in probate matters with the constitutional county court. In other counties, the county court at law may have concurrent jurisdiction in probate matters with the district court.
In the more populated counties, such as Travis County, the Legislature has created specialized probate courts (known as statutory probate courts) to hear probate matters exclusively. There are currently 18 statutory probate courts established in 10 counties across Texas that are limited primarily to probate matters.
The Travis County Probate Court
Travis County has one statutory probate court. The Travis County Probate Court is a statutory probate court headed by an elected judge. The current judge sitting in Travis County Probate Court #1 is the Honorable Guy Herman. The probate court is also served by Associate Judge Dan Prashner. The court is located at the Travis County Courthouse in downtown Austin, Texas.
How a Probate Attorney Can Help
Probate lawyer Farren Sheehan in the Austin area is a licensed attorney familiar with the court procedures in the Travis County Probate Court and are available to assist you with any probate matters in Travis or Williamson Counties. Call the office of Sheehan Law, PLLC with any questions you have regarding probate in the Austin, Pflugerville, Round Rock, or Cedar Park areas and we will be happy to set up a consultation to discuss.
If you have any questions about Texas probate law, please do not hesitate to contact us by phone at (512) 251-4553 for an initial consultation. Other contact information is listed in the upper right-hand area of this page, and a contact form is also available on our contact page.