Probate Estate Administration LawyerThe loss of a loved one is devasting and settling a decedent’s affairs while mourning can be overwhelming. There are multiple avenues for handling the payment of debts and distribution of assets from the decedent’s Estate, and most require varying degrees of court involvement. Certain circumstances may necessitate handling the decedent’s Estate through the Texas “probate” process. In this instance, a personal representative, such as an executor or administrator may be appointed to handle the estate.   The court’s role is to oversee the actions of a personal representative, facilitate the process and protect the interests of both the creditors and the beneficiaries of the Estate. The court enforces the obligations of personal representatives through required filings that are designed to notify and inform creditors and beneficiaries of the existence of the estate. A Texas probate attorney will help you navigate this process and evaluate whether there are alternatives to probate.

If probate is necessary, an experienced probate attorney can simplify what would otherwise be daunting process. The amount of time the probate administration takes depends on a variety of factors, including the validity and terms of a will, quantity and value of the assets involved, the amount and complexity of creditors’ claims, and whether anyone contests the decedent’s estate plan.

If the decedent left a valid will, the first step in the process is to deliver that valid will to the appropriate court in the appropriate county, along with an Application to probate that will. The Texas Estates Code governs the proper county in which to file a will and who may file for probate. If the will names an Executor, and the named Executor is willing and qualified to serve, he or she may be appointed after proper notice and a hearing on the Application. Acting as Independent Executor of the Estate requires minimal court oversight in administering the Estate, but court approval is required in certain circumstances. Once appointed, an Independent Executor is tasked with collecting all assets owned by the decedent and all claims owed to the decedent, settling all valid debts owed by the decedent, filing decedent’s taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries pursuant to the decedent’s will.

If a decedent did not leave a valid will or the Executor(s) named in the Will are unwilling or unqualified to serve as Executor, the court may appoint an Administrator.

An Independent Administrator is subject to the same duties and reporting requirements as an Independent Executor. However, Texas law requires that an Independent Administrator is appointed only with the consent of all interested parties in the Estate or beneficiaries under a Will.

If the court appoints a Dependent Administrator of the Estate, that individual’s actions as Administrator are subject to significantly greater court oversight than an Executor or Independent Administrator. The Texas Estates Code governs the actions that a Dependent Administrator may in administering the Estate. Each estate will have unique requirements depending on the assets and liabilities of the Estate. An experienced Texas probate lawyer should be consulted regarding the specific requirements for administration of this type.

An interested party may challenge the validity of the decedent’s estate planning documents. The basis for a contest may include that the person making the Will did not have the capacity to do so, or that someone unduly influenced the decedent to make certain decisions regarding the estate plan. Will contests are extremely complex, involve multiple parties, joinder of all beneficiaries and a discovery process.  The discovery process may entail the subpoena of relevant financial and medical records, the hiring of third-party forensic specialists to retrieve messaging data from the decedent’s devices, and hiring of experts to support the position as to decedent’s mental capacity or susceptibility to be influences. If you find yourself involved in a contested will situation, you will need an experienced estate litigation attorney to help you navigate the legal system and reach a solution.

Probate Attorneys in Houston Texas | Nikki Davis Law PC

Attorney Nikki Davis has nearly two decades of experience in helping families and executors navigate the probate process. We are committed to making the process more manageable and less stressful for our clients. To learn more about how we can help you, call us today at (713) 335-9585 or message us online.

Common Probate Attorney Questions

Does an executor have to show accounting to beneficiaries in Texas?

An executor owes a fiduciary duty to beneficiaries, which means they are required to act in the best financial interests of the beneficiaries (and not in their own best interest). They must distribute the estate according to the deceased’s wishes and cannot favor themselves when distributing assets. However, the legal right to an accounting of the estate’s assets does not go into effect until 15 months after the probate court recognizes the executor or appoints the administrator. After 15 months, any interested party can demand accounting from the executor or administrator.

What is the threshold for probate in Texas?

If the value of an estate’s assets – excluding a homestead property – is less than $75,000, then it may be eligible for a Small Estate Affidavit in Texas. A beneficiary can file this type of affidavit with the probate court to skip several of the estate administration steps.

How long does the probate process take?

The length of the probate process depends on the complexity of the estate and if any legal issues arise that require litigation. Probate can take as little as 30 days to as long as 12 months – and even longer if there are interested parties contesting some or part of the will. Average estates in Texas with no complications take around six to nine months to probate.

What should I bring to a first meeting with a probate attorney?

If you the executor of an estate, meeting with a probate attorney is an excellent first step to ensure everything is order before proceeding with the probate process. You should bring the following documents with you when you meet:

  • The death certificate
  • The will
  • Any other legal documents comprising the deceased’s estate plans
  • Documents detailing the deceased person’s assets
  • The names and contact information for people named in the will

How do I know if I need a probate lawyer?

Because an executor represents the interests of beneficiaries and creditors of an estate – and under Texas law only an attorney can represent the interest of others – most Texas probate courts require the executor or administrator to hire a lawyer for probate matters. There are exceptions to this under certain circumstances, however; it is always in an executor’s best interest to consult with a probate and estate administration attorney early in the process in order to determine what is necessary to proceed.