We help clients during particularly difficult times after losing a loved one. Having to deal with such tasks as sorting through the deceased person’s property and accounts, figuring out the amount of any debts, and making distributions to the beneficiaries, can become overwhelming. We understand, and we can help. Our Houston probate attorneys can guide you through the steps you must take if you find yourself in charge of a deceased person’s estate.Call us today if you need help making the probate process easy, understandable, and efficient.
Probate is the judicial process where a court appoints a personal representative or an executor to manage a decedent’s assets, pay any of decedent’s debts, and transfer legal title in the remaining property to the beneficiaries or heirs of decedent’s estate.
Generally, probate administration is a fairly efficient process in Texas. However, situations can arise where the process becomes complex, such as when a person dies without a will, or when complex family situations cause added stress and complexity.
We know this process and have represented individuals and corporate personal representatives in courts all across Texas. We handle non-contested and contested probate matters for estates of varying sizes and complexities.
A common misconception is that, if a person dies with a Will, there is no need for probate. Unfortunately, that is not the case. A Will does not have any validity to transfer assets until a judge issues an order stating that the Will is the valid last Will of the person who passed away. The process of going through the probate court to approve the Will and comply with the requirements of Texas law after a Will has been determined to be valid is a legal process known as “probate.”
The typical “simple” Texas probate (assuming there are no unusual issues concerning the Will) involves the following steps:
Unless all of the deceased person’s heirs agree to apply to the court for and independent administration (meaning an estate administration that is not overseen by the court), the estate of a person dying without a will (also known as dying intestate) will be supervised by a judge who will appoint an independent administrator answerable to the judge.
In most cases, the administrator will have to post a bond. In addition, the administrator will have to request the court’s permission almost every time the administrator wishes to deal with an asset of the estate, including making an investment and paying debts.
Before a distribution may be made to the deceased person’s heirs, the court will oversee a proceeding referred to as an heirship proceeding to determine the identity of the deceased person’s heirs. As part of the heirship proceeding, the court will appoint an independent probate attorney (not the attorney for the administrator of the estate) to represent the deceased person’s unknown heirs, minor heirs, and heirs who may be incapacitated and unable to enforce their own rights to the estate.
This independent attorney, known as an attorney ad litem, will investigate the deceased person’s background and will make a report to the court.
The fees for the attorney ad litem are paid for out of the deceased person’s estate.
During the heirship proceeding, two witnesses who are not heirs of the deceased person must appear in court to give testimony regarding the deceased person’s family background.
If any of the deceased person’s assets are to be distributed to a minor child or an incapacitated person, another proceeding may be necessary for a guardian to be appointed for the minor child or incapacitated person.
There are three sets of rules for determining heirs under Texas law. One set of rules applies to unmarried individuals, another applies to the separate property of a married individual, and another applies to a married person’s community property.
A deceased unmarried person’s heirs are:
A deceased married person’s separate property passes as follows:
A deceased married person’s community property passes as follows:
After a loved one passes away, our probate attorneys assist you by performing a thorough review of the family situation, the deceased person’s assets, and the potential for creditors, to determine the most efficient and cost-effective way to transfer the deceased person’s property to the beneficiaries or heirs. We always attempt to minimize probate court involvement, but if it becomes necessary to go through the court’s probate procedure, we will assist you in fulfilling the duties imposed on an executor or administrator by the court and Texas law.
Our probate attorneys counsel clients on probate, estate, and trust administration issues in the following areas:
If there has been a death in your family, or if your family is currently involved in a probate administration, you do not have to deal with it alone. Let a trusted probate attorney from the Heights Law Group walk you through this process. We can make this time in your life easy and less stressful. Call us today at (832) 810-3373 to find out more.