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When Is a Probate Estate Legally Closed in Texas?

When someone goes through the process of probating an estate, this usually means that they will have to gather, manage, and distribute the deceased’s assets.

This process can take quite some time in a Texas probate. In fact, in most cases, the probate administration is never closed. The probate stays open indefinitely.

The In re Estate of Teinert, 251 S.W.3d 66 (Tex. App.–Waco 2008, pet. denied) provides an opportunity to consider how a Texas probate estate is closed.

Facts & Procedural History

The decedent died in 1977. In 1978, his will was probated, and an independent administrator was appointed.

The independent executor paid the bills and distributed the related assets within a year’s time. No order was entered to formally close the estate.

Thirty years later, in 2007, Laurence Kreigel filed an application in the trial court requesting that he be appointed as independent executor for the estate. The probate court denied the application and entered an order officially closing the estate. Kreigel filed an appeal.

Closing the Probate Estate

The Texas Probate Code was replaced with the Texas Estates Code. Most of the provisions were merely renumbered and the Code was organized in a more logical order.

According to the Texas Probate Code in place in 2007, the estate of a deceased person with an independent executor can be closed through the filing of an affidavit by the executor or by obtaining a court order. These procedures are outlined in Sections 151 and 152 of the Texas Probate Code.

The court in this case noted that these two methods are not the only ways to close a probate estate. The court held that the final distribution of the estate’s assets, after all debts and claims against the estate have been settled, can also lead to the closing of the estate.

Given this holding, this means that the closure of the estate is not solely dependent on the specific procedures mentioned in Sections 151 and 152. The decision clarifies that the closing of an estate can be achieved through the final distribution of assets, regardless of the use of the specified closing procedures.

These rules are still valid today under the rules provided in the Texas Estates Code. The rules vary depending on whether the estate is a dependent or independent administration. Most estates in Texas are independent administrations.

Options for Closing Independent Administrations

The Texas Estates Code provides the procedures for the closing of an independent administration of an estate by an independent executor.

Judicial Discharge

Section 405.003 states that an independent executor may file an action for declaratory judgment seeking discharge from any liability related to the past administration of the estate that has been fully and fairly disclosed. Each distributee of the estate must be personally served with citation, except for those who have waived citation. The court may require the independent executor to file a final account and may audit, settle, or approve it. This first option is often referred to as a judicial discharge.

Closing Report

The second method involves a closing report. Section 405.004 states that when all known debts against the estate have been paid, and there is no pending litigation, the independent executor may file a closing report or a notice of closing of the estate with the court.

Section 405.005 specifies the requirements for a closing report filed by an independent executor, including information about the property of the estate, debts paid and remaining, property remaining on hand after payment of debts, and the names and addresses of distributees.

Notice of Estate Closing

The last method is the closing report. Section 405.006 provides an alternative to the closing report, allowing the filing of a notice of closing estate. The independent executor must provide a copy of the notice to each distributee, and the notice must include proof of distribution.

When is the Estate Closed?

Section 405.007 outlines the effects of filing a closing report or notice of closing estate. The independent administration of the estate is considered closed 30 days after filing, unless an objection is filed within that time.

The closing terminates the power and authority of the independent executor, but does not relieve them from liability for mismanagement or false statements. Persons dealing with estate properties or claims must deal directly with the distributees, and the acts of the distributees are considered valid and binding.

The filing of a closing report and proof of delivery release the sureties on the bond of the independent executor. The closing report or notice of closing estate serves as legal authority for payments or transfers to the distributees, who may enforce their rights through a lawsuit.

These provisions provide a framework for the orderly closing of an independent administration by an independent executor, ensuring proper accountability and distribution of estate assets.

How Long to Close a Probate in Texas

If you’re the executor of an estate in Texas and read the information above, you still may be wondering how long you have to close the probate estate. The answer isn’t always clear, since it can depend on a number of factors.

One factor that can affect the timeline for closing an estate is whether or not there are any disputes among the heirs. If there is disagreement about how to distribute the assets, for example, this can lengthen the process. Another factor is the size and complexity of the estate. A large estate with many assets may take longer to settle than a smaller one.

In general, though, you can expect the process of closing an estate in Texas to take at least six to seven months. Once all the debts and taxes have been paid, and all the assets have been distributed to the heirs, to close the estate.

The Takeaway

The closure of a probate estate in Texas can be achieved through various methods outlined in the Texas Estates Code. These include filing a closing report, submitting a notice of estate closing, or seeking a judicial discharge through a declaratory judgment. These options ensure the proper distribution of estate assets and provide flexibility in achieving closure. Factors such as disputes among heirs and the size of the estate can affect the timeline for closing. Consulting experienced attorneys can help navigate the legal requirements and facilitate a smooth process.

Hire an Experienced Attorney to Deal with Estate Closing

Whether the estate is large or small, the process of settling it and distributing its assets can take a considerable amount of time. For some estates, attorneys with expertise in this area might be necessary to handle all the legal requirements and paperwork. Call us today for a FREE attorney consultation. (281) 219-9090.

Our Houston Probate Attorneys provide a full range of probate services to our clients, including helping with the closing of estates. 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.

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