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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Lori Hawkins, administrator of the estate of Aubrey Hawkins, appeals from the probate court’s award of attorney’s fees assessed against her in favor of Dixie Buchanan, as next friend for Andrew Hawkins, the decedent’s only child. Dixie Buchanan and the decedent, Aubrey Hawkins, were married from 1991 until 1993, and during that time had one child, Andrew Hawkins. After divorcing Dixie, the appellee, Aubrey later married Lori Hawkins, the appellant, who remained his wife until the time of his murder in 2000. On July 23, 2001, Probate Court No. One of Tarrant County appointed Lori as the administrator of Aubrey’s intestate estate, and issued letters of administration to her. Lori filed an oath of administrator and posted a $10,000 bond in accordance with the court’s order naming her administrator of the estate. On that same date, the probate court entered a judgment declaring heirship of Aubrey’s estate. The probate court found that Lori was his current spouse and that she was entitled to retain her one-half interest in the community’s personal and real property, plus a one-third interest in any of Aubrey’s separate personal property and a one-third life estate in any of Aubrey’s separate real property. The court’s judgment also determined that Aubrey was survived by one child, Andrew, from Aubrey’s previous marriage to Dixie. Andrew was declared to be the owner of the other one-half interest in the community’s personal and real property and two-thirds of the separate personal property and real estate, with a one-third remainder interest in the surviving spouse’s life estate in Aubrey’s separate real property. Lori timely filed an inventory, appraisement, and list of claims with the probate court Dec. 28, 2001, which the probate court approved by written order Jan. 3, 2002. Lori also timely filed an annual account that the probate court approved Aug. 28, 2002, as well as a second one that the court approved Sept. 9, 2003. Both accountings showed an estate value of $4,100, plus an unliquidated outstanding claim from a cause of action pending in a Dallas district court regarding a wrongful death action against the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. During this time, Lori made virtually no distributions of estate property to Andrew. On May 29, 2003, Dixie filed for partition and distribution of the estate on Andrew’s behalf, claiming that Andrew had not yet received his father’s one-half of the community estate or two-thirds of his father’s separate estate. The probate court referred the matter to mediation Oct. 15, 2003, but Lori was sanctioned for failure to appear at the mediation session. Dixie filed an amended partition pleading April 30, 2004, that added a request to deliver the property to Andrew that he was entitled to under �384 of the Texas Probate Code. The amended petition also sought a declaration of Andrew’s “rights under the Estate of Aubrey Wright Hawkins” and attorney’s fees. After a trial to the court, the probate court entered judgment against Lori for failure to timely distribute the estate’s personal property to Andrew, finding that she had failed to do so as administrator of the estate. On Aug. 9, 2004, the probate court ordered her to turn over Andrew’s one-half interest and ordered her and her surety, Universal Surety of America, to pay attorney’s fees of $8,307, with interest, to Dixie pursuant to �245 of the Texas Probate Code. HOLDING:Affirmed. Texas Probate Code �245 allows attorney’s fees in connection with the removal of a personal representative of an estate for cause. Section 245 provides for the recovery of attorney’s fees incurred due to the neglect of a representative in performing her statutory duties. These costs are appropriate assessments against the representative when she neglects her duties, as opposed to penalizing the estate, because the representative holds the property interests of the estate for others in this capacity. Barnett v. Barnett, 985 S.W.2d 520 (Tex. App. – Houston [1st Dist.] 1998), rev’d in part on other grounds, 67 S.W.3d 107 (Tex. 2001). Dixie complained that Lori failed to deliver any of the personalty reflected in the inventory and appraisement that belonged to Andrew within a reasonable amount of time. Dixie’s complaint states that Andrew failed to receive anything from his father’s estate, other than a few toys, from the time Lori was appointed, Aug. 3, 2001, through May 29, 2003, and that Andrew, as Aubrey’s only child, was entitled to all of his father’s share of any community property and two-thirds of his father’s separate property. Dixie’s original and amended petitions clearly asserted claims against Lori for partition and distribution of the estate, damages and interest thereon, a declaration of Andrew’s rights to a portion of the estate, and attorney’s fees incurred in recovering same. After consideration of the pleadings and evidence, the trial court entered a judgment that finds for Dixie, determines Andrew’s rights in the estate, determines amounts to be distributed, orders Lori to deliver the appropriate portions of the estate to Andrew, and awards Dixie attorney’s fees specifically under �245 of the probate code. A review of the testimony and exhibits introduced at the hearing supports the trial court’s findings and conclusions. Further, these findings and determinations support the trial court’s award of attorney’s fees under �245 for failure to distribute portions of the estate. Lori contends that the award was premature because the administration of the estate had not yet been concluded. She contends that the award of attorney’s fees against her results in an improper surcharge against her, because the estate is not yet ready to be closed. However, �245 is not limited to recoveries due to neglect of duties only once the estate is closed. Costs and attorney’s fees can be awarded for the neglect of any duty imposed upon the representative of an estate at any time. A personal representative’s primary duty is to wind up the estate by paying debts and distributing the estate’s property to the appropriate heirs or beneficiaries as speedily as possible. OPINION:Livingston, J.; Livingston, Holman and Gardner, JJ.

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