Probate courts are among the largest and most powerful courts in the state. Only 18 of these highly-specialized courts were created by the Texas Legislature to serve the state's 10 largest counties. Harris County has the most of any county with four probate courts. They have exclusive jurisdiction (authority) over probate matters, which includes the probate of wills and the establishment of guardianships and certain types of trusts.
In addition to exclusive jurisdiction over probate matters, probate courts also have the same jurisdiction as district courts in matters related to personal injury, survival or wrongful death actions, actions by or against a personal representative of an estate, issues involving trusts and lawsuits by or against trustees, and actions by or against agents under a power of attorney. Probate courts also have the power transfer any matter related to a probate proceeding to the probate court from another county or district court. Because probate courts share jurisdiction with district courts on many types of cases, they are also the only county court in which you can get a full twelve-person jury.
Probate courts in Harris County are the busiest in the state. Each year they hear well over 7,500 cases, process more than 4,000 inventories and audit nearly 500 annual accounts. For this reason, Harris County probate courts have large staffs to efficiently handle the case load. Staff members include an associate judge, one to three staff attorneys, court coordinators, auditors, investigators, and clerks, making them among the largest courts in the state as well.
With large staffs, high caseloads, and extended statutory authority equal to district courts in many cases, probate courts require judges with extensive knowledge of probate matters as well as experience in litigation to effectively manage the courts. Judge Jerry Simoneaux has represented clients from the probate trial court to the Texas Supreme Court. He also has experience as a probate court staff attorney and as a judge in the Houston Municipal Courts. Judge Simoneaux is the right choice for the probate court bench.