Before getting into more detailed probate rules, it is important to stop to think about what the term “probate” means.
The term “probate” is often defined as the process for establishing the validity of a will. Others use the term to refer to the court process when someone dies or the process for paying the decedent’s creditors and distributing the decedent’s assets. If you are dealing with the death of a loved one, you probably feel that these definitions are too narrow. And you are correct.
There are many other tasks involved in probating an estate. Not only does the term “probate” refer to the process when someone dies without a will, which is referred to as dying “intestate,” the term “probate” is often used to describe everything that takes place after someone dies. It can be used to describe everything from the funeral and burial arrangements to options for avoiding the probate court process altogether. The term “probate” can even refer to disputes involving the decedent’s estate, such as will contests and will construction lawsuits. This website generally uses this “everything after death” definition for the term probate.
The definition used in this website is also defined by Texas probate laws and procedures. Texas is not a Uniform Probate Code (“UPC”) state (UPC states adopt a model code and have streamlined procedures). Texas has its own approach to probate and probate administration. Things that are part of the probate process in Texas may or may not be thought of as being part of the probate process in other states.
Before getting into the probate rules, it’s helpful to pause to consider a few terminology and vocabulary issues.
The person who is appointed in a will to administer the estate is referred to as the executor (if a male) or executrix (if a female). If there is no will and the court appoints someone to administer the estate, this person is referred to as the administrator. For ease of reading, we use the term “personal representative” to refer to both the executor/executrix and administrator.
With these definitions in mind, let’s get to the probate rules. The first topic is the first thing that needs to happen when someone dies.
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