The death of a loved one is an especially difficult time. When faced with the uncertainty of how to handle your loved one’s estate, the stress from that situation can seem to only magnify the difficulties. Hiring a Houston probate lawyer can help with handling the legal details.
The first thing that needs to be determined is whether there is a Will. If there is a Will, it must first be located.
Administration If the Decedent Died Without a Will
If the decedent died without a Will or the Will cannot be located, an administration proceeding must be opened as the decedent died without a Will, or intestate. In the administration proceeding, the probate court will appoint an administrator of the decedent’s estate. The administrator will then take an inventory of all assets and debts of the estate and make a report to the probate court about the inventory results. After this, the court will engage in attempting to determine heirship of the estate according to the laws of intestacy in Texas. After the estate’s heirs are determined, the debts and taxes of the estate are paid, the estate’s property is distributed to the heirs and the administrator prepares a final accounting for the probate court.
If your loved one recently passed away and you need assistance with the legal process to settle the estate, call a qualified Houston probate lawyer at today at 713.221.9088.
Probate if the Decedent Died With a Valid Will
After locating the Will, the next step is filing it with the court in the county in which the decedent lived.
The probate court then posts a required notice of the Will filing for any potential contests to the Will. After this two week mandatory notice time period has passed, the probate court will then determine whether or not Will is valid. This validation process takes place in a hearing in probate court and the jurisdiction of the court is also determined at this hearing. Hiring a Houston probate lawyer to assist you in presenting this information to the court can be of significant assistance.
If the probate court determines that the Will is valid and an executor is named in the Will, the court will likely issue letters testamentary and order an independent administration of the estate by the named executor. In independent administration the executor has broad powers to administer the estate without seeking court approval for every transaction. As a qualified Houston probate lawyer will no doubt tell you, these duties include preparing an inventory of the estate for the court, notifying the creditors of the estate, paying the estate’s debt’s, paying the estate’s taxes, distributing the property of the estate in accordance with the Will’s instructions and preparing a final accounting for the probate court.
If the probate court determines that the Will does not name an executor or if the estate needs monitoring, the court will appoint a dependent administrator. In dependent administration, the administrator has to seek court approval for more transactions than in an independent administration. A dedicated Houston probate lawyer, such as those at The Larson Law Office, can assist with these court administration procedures.
Muniment of Title
Sometimes there are situations where there is a valid Will, but all the estate’s debts have been paid and only title to real property needs to be transferred and there are no other complicating issues needing administration by a probate court. In these cases, there is no reason for a court to administer the estate and the court can probate the Will as a “muniment of title.” This means that once the probate court has entered the order, it can be filed directly with the county property records to change title of the real property to the beneficiaries under the Will. This is accomplished without an administration of the estate, without the necessity of filing an inventory with the probate court. As an experienced Houston probate lawyer will tell you, this must be done within four years of the decedent’s passing and the estate must have no debts, except those secured by liens on the real property.
Small Estates Affidavit
If a decedent dies without a Will and the total value of the estate is under 50,000, excluding homestead and exempt property, a Small Estates Affidavit may serve a useful and economical purpose. A Houston probate lawyer can help in preparing this affidavit. An affidavit is signed by two disinterested witnesses in which the assets of the estate are designated. In addition, the affidavit outlines the estate’s liabilities, the distributees of the estate and the family history of the decedent. The probate court judge can enter an order approving the Small Estates Affidavit. If the court enters an order approving it, the affidavit can be filed in the county’s deed records in which the homestead is located.
Speak with a Houston Probate Lawyer
If you have questions about a Will or administering an estate without a Will, call The Larson Law Office to speak with an effective Houston probate lawyer at 713.221.9088.