Texas Probate – What Should You Expect?

Dec 11, 2019Texas Probate

Leslie Thomas, Attorney

If someone dies, leaving behind property without transferring it to some other person via joint ownership with a survivorship right, beneficiaries direct payments, or via a Trust, here’s what happens. A Texas probate court will step in to distribute the property of the deceased based on Texas probate law.

The Texas probate process involves a court officially recognizing the death of a person and overseeing how their debts are paid and their assets distributed. The role of the probate courts in Texas is to ensure that the process is smooth. The court does this while protecting the interests of any beneficiary or creditor involved. The court carries out probate administration and hires other qualified persons to help facilitate the process.


How the Texas probate law plays out

Should a person die with a drafted will, it is up to the personal representative or executor in the will to file for probate. There are certain local/state court codes that determine the length of time involved in probating a will in Texas.

Generally speaking, an executor is given 4 years from when the person that drafted the will passed away to file for probate. If such time elapses and the executor fails to file the will, the estate’s assets will be distributed. The distribution takes place in line with the laws of intestacy. It will be assumed that there is no will.

If the case involves a simple estate, the probate court can conclude the process within six months. But there are cases where the probate can last for more than 12 months should the original will be contested or missing. This can complicate the process and will require more time because the court will become even more involved.

Having a Texas probate attorney by your side during the probate process is necessary.  That’s because the experience can be stressful.


Texas Probate – The steps involved when probating a will in Texas

If your loved one dies without a clear and concise will in place, probate may be necessary. It is important to know what steps to take and what to expect. This will help your family prepare for this legal process. Here are the steps in probating a will in Texas:


1. Filing

A probate application must be filed in the residential county of the decedent at a Texas probate court.

2. Posting

On filing the probate application, you’ll have to wait about 2 weeks before your application qualifies for a hearing. A notice will be posted by the county clerk within this period at the courthouse. The notice will state that a probate application filing was done to notify interested parties who might want to contest the estate administration or the will. On receiving no contest, the Texas probate court then opens the administration.

3. Validating the will

At the end of the waiting period, a hearing will be presided over by a judge. The judge will recognize the death of the decedent legally. The judge will also verify whether or not there was a valid will before appointing an administrator or verifying the executor.

 4. Cataloging assets

Once the naming of the estate administrator or executor is done, the person is expected to catalog all the assets of the estate and get back to the county clerk within 3 months from the date of appointment. They are expected to come up with an Inventory, Appraisement, as well as List of Claims. They must also swear that they have accurately done their duty.

5. Identify beneficiaries

If a valid will was left behind by the decedent, the beneficiaries will be notified by the executor. But in the absence of a will, the Texas probate court has the responsibility of determining heirship. This process can be challenging.

By seeking the assistance of a Texas probate attorney, all interested parties can begin proceedings before the court to decide heirship. This will be done in the county that houses the property. The application must be signed by all heirs. If by chance some heirs are not known, the court requires the posting of notices at the courthouse and in newspapers. It is expected that applicants be able to prove that the application details are true. Testimony may also be required in written and oral forms.

6. Notify creditors

It is normal for the decedent to have incurred some debts while alive. Some portion of the estate will be used to resolve these debts. This comprises debts like household expenses, as well as mortgages and medical bills. Notifications are then sent to the creditors by the executor of the estate, giving them the chance to file a claim against the estate. To do this legally in Texas, the notice to creditors has to appear in a local newspaper.

7. Disputes resolution

So long as the will is still being contested by beneficiaries life family members or if certain grievances are filed, there can be no resolution. For the estate to be finalized, all disputes must go before a judge at a probate court in Texas.

This situation normally occurs when probating a last will and testament. This is because of the emotional side of things which can lead to a potential conflict between family members. The contesting party has 2 years from the original probate to contest a will. Working with a Texas probate lawyer can help you with the guidance and direction you need to get through a dispute regardless of who the complainant is.

The contesting party is expected to prove that something is not right about the will or that it is invalid. They have to prove that the will was either forged, influenced by a 3rd party, not executed right, or that multiple wills were executed. Mediation usually helps to resolve a Texas probate conflict without having to go to court. Families and attorneys can come together to reach an out-of-court settlement.

8. Distribution of assets signifies the conclusion of the Texas probate

Once every dispute and debt is resolved, the beneficiaries then receive the remaining assets.


Texas probate – What happens if you die without a will?

Dying without a will leads to probate. This is even worse because a judge will have to determine who your relatives are and how heirship should be decided. The state will also determine who gets your money and properties, as well as how much they get. There will also be the involvement of several probate lawyers which will drive up the Texas probate attorney fees.

Think about how much time and money will be spent in concluding a probate procedure. In the end, your estate may not go to the people you really care about. Do not let that happen to you.

Take steps to secure the future of your family and loved ones by contacting Thomas-Walters Estate Planning today. We will help you create your last will and testament to protect your legacy and the future of your loved ones.

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At the conclusion of the event, I’ll also extend an invitation for you or your loved ones to meet with me free of charge if you have any additional questions or you’d like to talk in more detail about your personal situation. These planning sessions normally cost $600, but I will waive the entire fee for our webinar attendees.

Attending one of these webinars is a FREE FIRST STEP and there’s NO CATCH or obligation! Take the time to learn how to get your affairs in order. You’ll be glad you did if something happens.