As the population of Montgomery County continues to grow, so does the need for efficient and effective courts to manage the increasing number of cases. To address this, State Representative Will Metcalf has filed House Bill 1436, aimed at converting Montgomery County at Law No. 2 into a dedicated probate court.
What is a Probate Court?
The term “probate court” refers to one of several different courts that can hear probate cases.
Texas has four different courts that handle probate cases, including statutory probate courts, county courts at law, constitutional county courts, and district courts. Each type of court has its own unique jurisdiction and handles different types of cases.
Statutory Probate Courts
Statutory Probate Courts are specialized courts that exclusively handle probate, guardianship, and mental health cases. These courts have original jurisdiction over all probate matters, including wills, trusts, and estates.
In Texas, there are 18 Statutory Probate Courts. These courts are presided over by judges who are elected to four-year terms. The judges must be licensed attorneys with at least four years of experience practicing law.
County Courts at Law
County Courts at Law are courts of general jurisdiction that handle a wide range of civil and criminal matters. In probate cases, County Courts at Law have jurisdiction over contested probate matters and probate appeals.
In Texas, there are 251 County Courts at Law. These courts are presided over by judges who are elected to four-year terms. The judges must be licensed attorneys with at least four years of experience practicing law.
Constitutional County Courts
Constitutional County Courts are courts of limited jurisdiction that handle misdemeanor criminal cases and civil matters with lower dollar amounts. In probate cases, Constitutional County Courts have jurisdiction over uncontested probate matters.
In Texas, there are 254 Constitutional County Courts, one for each county in the state. These courts are presided over by judges who are elected to four-year terms. The judges do not need to be licensed attorneys.
District Courts are courts of general jurisdiction that handle civil and criminal matters with higher dollar amounts. In probate cases, District Courts have jurisdiction over contested probate matters and probate appeals.
In Texas, there are 461 District Courts. These courts are presided over by judges who are elected to four-year terms. The judges must be licensed attorneys with at least four years of experience practicing law.
Choice of Court for Probate Cases
The choice of which court to file the probate case in depends on factors such as the location of the decedent, the location of the property, and the location of the parties involved. These factors identify the county, and then the court that is available is the one that is provided by that particular county.
The “statutory probate court” is what most think of when they think of probate courts. This court only hears matters related to estates, wills, and guardianship. The other courts on the list can hear other matters.
Montgomery County Court at Law Number 2
With the number of probate cases filed annually in Montgomery County Court at Law No. 2 increasing from just over 1,000 in 2014 to approximately 1,700 in 2021, the need for a dedicated statutory probate court is more pressing than ever.
The bill, if passed, would reclassify the existing court as Probate Court No. 1 and provide a fully dedicated court to manage the increased caseload. This is important because a probate court can handle such cases with greater speed and efficiency compared to a general court that handles a variety of cases.
A Significant Change
Representative Metcalf recognizes the significance of this bill, stating, “As our community has faced an explosion of growth in the last couple of decades, our local courts have wisely organized themselves to stay in step with that growth and move cases as quickly and expeditiously as possible. The growth in our county has led to the need for a fully dedicated probate court to manage the increased caseload.”
The support for this bill has also been demonstrated by the Montgomery County commissioners, who unanimously approved a resolution in March, calling for legislative action to change one of the county’s courts at law into a probate court.
In conclusion, the need for a dedicated probate court in Montgomery County is clear. The conversion of Montgomery County at Law No. 2 into Probate Court No. 1 would not only address the growing number of probate cases but also provide residents with a faster and more efficient court system. The filing of House Bill 1436 by Representative Will Metcalf is a step in the right direction, and we hope to see it pass soon.
Do You Need a Probate Attorney?
An experienced probate attorney can help you navigate the complex probate process and ensure that your rights are protected. They can also help you gather evidence and build a strong case to support your claim. If you are considering challenging a will, contact an experienced probate attorney today to discuss your options.
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.