When a person passes away, their estate must go through probate in order to be distributed to their heirs. Probate is the legal process of settling the estate and can be done with or without a will.
If the deceased had a will, then the executor named in the will is responsible for administering the estate. If there is no will, then the court will appoint an administrator.
Administering an estate in Texas can be a complex and daunting task. Depending on the size of the estate, it can take months or even years to complete.
What is Probate?
Probate is the legal process of distributing a person’s assets and paying their debts after they have died. It involves proving the validity of a person’s will (if there is a will), identifying and inventorying their assets, notifying their creditors, and distributing their assets to their beneficiaries.
Texas probate is unique in several ways. One notable difference is that Texas allows for independent administrations, which can be faster and less expensive than other types of probate. With an independent administration, the court’s involvement is limited, and the executor of the estate has more control over the process.
Another unique aspect of Texas probate is that it has a relatively short time frame for creditors to make a claim against the estate. In Texas, creditors must file their claims within just a few months of receiving notice or risk losing their right to collect the debt.
Texas also has unique probate laws that provide for community property, which is property acquired during a marriage that is jointly owned by both spouses. In Texas, community property is subject to certain rules and requirements when it comes to inheritance and probate.
Steps in the Texas Probate Process
To help simplify the process, you should follow these four steps to administer an estate in Texas:
1. Determine the Proper Applicant
A proper applicant for a Texas estate administration is normally the executor or administrator as named in the decedent’s will or the independent administrator appointed by the court. In certain circumstances, a spouse, adult child, close relative, or creditor of the decedent may also be a proper applicant.
If you are unsure whether you are a proper applicant for estate administration, you should consult with an experienced probate attorney.
2. File the Will
The next step is to file the will with the court.
The person named in the will as executor, or personal representative, must file a petition to probate the estate and have the will admitted to probate.
3. Prepare and File Your Application
When you are ready to apply for probate, you will have to file a Petition for Probate with the district court in the country where the deceased lived and give notice to all interested parties.
You can do this by publishing a notice in a newspaper or by mailing notice to all interested parties. The petition must include:
- The decedent’s name, date of death, and county of residence
- The name, address, and relationship of the person who is applying for probate (the “executor” or “administrator”)
- A list of the decedent’s heirs and beneficiaries
- A statement that indicates whether the decedent left a will and, if so, where it is located
- A certified copy of the death certificate
After you give notice, the interested parties have 30 days to file an objection if they wish. After filing the petition, the court will issue Letters Testamentary (if there is a will) or Letters of Administration (if there is no will), which appoints the executor or administrator and gives him or her the authority to act on behalf of the estate. Any interested party can file a petition asking to be appointed executor of the estate if there is no will.
The executor or administrator must inform all parties, including creditors and beneficiaries, of their appointment and advise them to direct all questions to him or her.
4. Inventory and Appraise Assets
The next step to administer an estate is to inventory and appraise all assets of the estate. This includes both real and personal property, such as real estate, bank accounts, stocks, and personal belongings. To do this, you must gather all relevant documentation, such as account statements, deeds, and titles.
Lastly, you must determine and pay any outstanding debts or taxes owed by the estate.
These four steps to administer an estate are mandatory and require careful consideration. However, there are many other factors involved beyond the scope of this article, it’s always best to speak with a qualified attorney to ensure your estate is properly managed and distributed according to applicable law. With proper planning and guidance, administering an estate in Texas can go smoothly and efficiently for family members and executors alike.
Our Houston Probate Attorneys provide a full range of probate services to our clients. Affordable rates, fixed fees, and payment plans are available. We provide step-by-step instructions, guidance, checklists, and more for completing the probate process. We have years of combined experience we can use to support and guide you with probate and estate matters. Call us today for a FREE attorney consultation.
The content of this website is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The information presented may not apply to your situation and should not be acted upon without consulting a qualified probate attorney. We encourage you to seek the advice of a competent attorney with any legal questions you may have.