Probate is a legal procedure wherein the estate of a deceased person is administered. Probate involves collecting the decedent’s assets, paying off any debt owed to creditors, and distributing property to the legal heirs or beneficiaries. Typically, probate property is distributed by an executor, according to the decedent’s Will. If there is no valid Will, these activities are managed by an administrator.
Probate is a process that usually begins with filing the decedent’s Will with the Court, filing for an Heirship Determination, or filing documents asking the Court to appoint an Independent Administrator. You will find the full steps of the process outlined in greater detail below.
Creditors must be notified and legal notices published in certain probate cases.
Executors of the Will or Administrators of the Estate must be guided in how and when to distribute assets and how to handle the debts of the estate.
Texas is a community property state. Community property is treated differently than separate property in Texas.
There are time factors involved in filing and objecting to claims against the estate. There may be separate procedures required in contentious probate cases.
Estate taxes, gift taxes or inheritance taxes must be considered if the estate exceeds certain thresholds.
Assets that have designated beneficiaries, such as life insurance or POD accounts simply need to be transferred from the deceased to the designated beneficiaries. A death certificate is required to make these transfers. These transfers occur outside of the probate process.
If a decedent died without a Will, an Attorney ad Litem will need to be appointed by the Judge to find any lost or unknown heirs.
At this first stage, the court will decide if the presented Last Will & Testament is, in fact, valid. This may require witnesses to testify in court or sign a sworn statement.
The decedent’s choice of executor is usually included in the Will, but the court usually appoints next of kin if there is no Will, or if no executor is named in the Will.
The final step of the Probate process is to properly distribute the estate, according to the decedent’s Last Will & Testament.