If you have recently experienced the death of a loved one, you may be uncertain about what needs to be done to wrap up your loved one's financial affairs and pass his or her property on to family and friends. A Texas probate attorney can help. A probate lawyer can review your circumstances, advise you of whether probate is necessary, prepare all required court papers and legal notices, and guide you through the process.
When a person dies, the assets that he or she owns- real estate, bank accounts, investments, cash, and personal property- become part of his or her estate. Probate is the process of administering the estate so that the decedent's debts and taxes are paid and the property remaining is distributed to the decedent's beneficiaries or heirs.
Probate may be necessary regardless of whether the decedent has left a will or has died without a will (“intestate”).
Overview of what happens in a Texas probate
To begin a probate case in Texas, an application for probate must be filed with the Texas probate court. The executor named in the will or other person with an interest in the estate typically initiates the application, which is prepared by the probate attorney.
After a waiting period, the court will hold a hearing. During the waiting period, the county clerk issues notice to the public that an application for probate has been filed. The notice allows individuals with an interest in the outcome of the probate case to file a challenge to the will. At the probate hearing, the facts of the death are proved and the will, if there is one, is established as valid and admitted to probate. The court appoints a representative (an executor if the decedent left a will or administrator if there is no will) to administer the estate.
After the hearing, the representative is sworn in and the clerk issues documents (Letters Testamentary) that authorize the representative to act for the estate.
The representative must publish a notice in the newspaper to the decedent's creditors notifying them to make a claim against the estate if they expect to be paid. The representative is also required to prepare an inventory and appraisement, which is a detailed list of the decedent's assets and their values at the date of death. A Texas probate lawyer can assist with these tasks. From the estate's assets, the representative pays any taxes owed by the decedent or the estate and valid creditors' claims. The remaining assets are then distributed either according to the will or the Texas laws of intestacy.
Assets That Do Not Require Probate
Some assets pass on death without needing to go through probate. Examples include life insurance proceeds, real estate held with a right of survivorship, life estates, payable on death accounts, and assets in a living trust. If an estate consists entirely of such assets, probate is probably not necessary.
In addition, simplified probate procedures are available in some cases, such as when the estate is small, when the decedent has no debts, or when a surviving spouse is left with only community property. Your Texas probate lawyer will advise you of which procedures are suitable for your loved one's estate. Let the experienced Texas probate attorneys at the Peterson Law Group help you with the complex details of probate so that you can care for yourself and your family at this difficult time. Call us at 979-703-7014 to arrange for a consultation.