Houston Probate Lawyer

probate attorneys houston txThe loss of a loved one is an especially difficult time and the legal matters that arise should be handled with sensitivity and care.

At The Larson Law Office, we pride ourselves in giving clients experienced and personalized service, making the probate process as efficient as possible.

Contact our Houston probate attorneys today for a complimentary consultation.

The Probate Process: How to Probate a Will in Texas

The first step to probating an estate is to determine whether there is a Will and where it is located. If there is no Will, the heirs of the Decedent will inherit according to Texas intestacy laws.

  • 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 two week notice of the Will filing for any potential contests. After the mandatory time period has passed, the probate court will then determine whether or not the Will is valid. This validation process takes place in a hearing in probate court where the jurisdiction of the court is also determined.

    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. This includes:

    • Preparing an inventory of the estate of the estate for the court
    • Notifying the creditors of the estate
    • Paying the estate’s debts and taxes
    • Distributing the property of the estate in accordance with the Will’s instructions
    • Preparing a final accounting for the probate

    Muniment of Title Probate in Texas

    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. If there are no other complicating issues needing administration by a probate court, the Will can be probated. This means that once the 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 often the fastest, most economical way to probate a will in Texas. It 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. For more information about this process, contact our Houston probate attorneys.

    What If the Will Does Not Name an Executor?

    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 any transactions. Our skilled Houston probate attorneys can assist with these court administration procedures.

  • Probating an Estate Without a Will

    If the Decedent died without a Will or the Will cannot be located, 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 before property is distributed to the heirs. The administrator then 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 our Houston probate lawyers at The Larson Law Office today. 713-221-9088

    Filing a Small Estates Affidavit in Texas

    If a Decedent dies without a Will and the total value of the estate is under $75,000, excluding homestead and exempt property, our probate attorneys can prepare a Small Estates Affidavit. The Affidavit is signed by two disinterested witnesses in which the assets of the estate are designated. It outlines the estate’s liabilities, the distributees of the estate, and the family history of the Decedent. The probate court judge can then enter an order approving the Small Estates Affidavit, allowing it to be filed in the county’s deed records where the homestead is located.

How to Avoid Probate

Whether the goal of avoiding probate is advisable in your particular situation is a consideration that should be discussed with a seasoned Houston probate lawyer. If avoiding probate is your goal, you can discuss the following options in more detail with your lawyer.

  • Joint property ownership with the right of survivorship: If you want your property to pass to a loved one automatically upon your death with no need for probate, be sure that your property is jointly owned with the right of survivorship.
  • Living Trusts: Any asset you own can be protected from probate by establishing a living trust. You must make yourself the current trustee, transfer ownership to yourself as trustee, and name a successor trustee who simply takes over control of the trust after you die with no need for probate. The successor trustee can then distribute the asset to the beneficiaries.
  • Transfer-on-Death (TOD): Making certain assets transferable upon death is a simple way to pass assets on without probate. Some examples include transfer-on-death real estate deeds and transfer-on-death vehicle registrations.

These are just a few ways to avoid probate. Speak with your lawyer to find methods that suit your specific needs.

Why You Need a Houston Probate Lawyer

Some people believe they can handle a probate case on their own. You may even find yourself wondering, Why would I need a probate lawyer? The answer to this question is twofold—you need time to grieve and you need probate handled properly and efficiently.

Time to Grieve

After a loved one dies, the emotional toll can be unbearable, and healing requires time to grieve. Preoccupation with tedious details can be challenging for many of us during the best of times, but they are certainly not something that we want to deal with during the worst of times. The average probate case is riddled with details you may not be familiar with and can take 8 to 12 months (or more) to resolve. The added stress of trying to handle this on your own can interrupt the process of recovery in a way that can impact you for years to come. So it is best to give yourself the time you need to properly deal with your loss and your new reality.

Get the Job Done Right

Unfortunately, if your loved one died without establishing a Will or taking steps to avoid probate, someone needs to step up and deal with the administrative issues related to the estate. An attorney who has experience in handling probate cases in the past is much more mentally prepared for the task than a newly grieving widow or widower who has no experience in court. A skilled probate attorney in Houston, TX, can alleviate your burden by skillfully:

  • Preparing and filing all necessary court documents within allotted timeframes;
  • Handling income tax, estate tax, and inheritance tax issues on both the state and federal level;
  • Settling disputes among beneficiaries;
  • Managing the deceased’s bank accounts and paying off debts;
  • Locating the deceased’s assets and obtaining appraisals for those assets;
  • Filing for and collecting life insurance benefits; and
  • Managing retirement plans.

Allow yourself time to heal by letting a professional take these burdens off you. They have done it many times before, and they know exactly what to do and when to do it.

Contact Our Houston Probate Lawyers Today!

Entering probate without knowledgeable legal guidance can cause stress and magnify difficulties. Our attorneys are ready to answer any questions you may have about estate planning in Texas and the probate process. Contact us today to schedule your complimentary case review. 713-221-9088