What Is Probate?
If you are in the process of writing your will or trying to determine how the property of a family member will be handled after their death, you may have encountered the term probate. Probate is the legal process by which a person’s estate, their property and possessions, are handled after they pass on.
In the probate process, a court officially recognizes a person’s death and determines how their assets are distributed among family members and other beneficiaries. If the deceased left a will to direct where their property should go, the procedure may be simpler. Some items do not have to go through probate, but others, especially those lacking titles or not named in the will, may have to go through this process.
How Does the Probate Process Work?
The probate process can be daunting to those without experience, but the good news is that compared to other states, probate in the State of Texas is relatively simple. The Texas probate process can be broken down into several steps:
- Filing with the probate court – An application for probate is filed with the proper probate court for the county where the deceased was a resident.
- Posting notice – Before a hearing is held regarding a probate application, there is a ten-day waiting period to allow for anyone to contest the will or the administration of the estate.
- Hearing and validation – After the waiting period, there will be a hearing and the probate judge will ensure that the will is valid or verify that the deceased did not leave a will. The judge will then appoint an administrator for the estate or will verify that the executor is valid.
- Inventory of assets – Within 90 days of the appointment of an administrator or executor, that person must compile a list of all the assets held by the estate and file it with the county clerk, in the form of a report known as an Inventory, Appraisement, and List of Claims. This report lists the estate’s assets as well as a reasonably accurate estimation of their value as of the deceased’s passing.
- Notify beneficiaries – If the deceased left a will, the executor must notify the beneficiaries of the estate. If there was no will, the probate court must determine heirship. In the case of unknown potential heirs, it may be necessary to post notices in newspapers and at the courthouse.
- Notice to creditors – The deceased may have unresolved debts, also known as liabilities—hospital bills, house or car payments, or other major expenses. The executor must notify creditors of the person’s death and allow them the opportunity to make a claim against the estate.
- Dispute resolution – If family members or potential beneficiaries wish to contest the will, the probate court must hold a hearing before finalizing the estate.
- Distribution of Assets – Once any disputes are resolved and the estate has been finalized, the assets are distributed to the beneficiaries.
Common Terms Related to Probate
The probate process contains specialized legal vocabulary and concepts that you may find confusing if you’ve never experienced them. Here are a few commonly used terms.
- Administrator – When a person dies without a will and an executor hasn’t been named, Texas law requires that an administrator be appointed to manage the estate.
- Assets – Property with a monetary value held by an estate. Real estate, vehicles, clothing, jewelry, bank accounts, cash, and furnishings would all be considered assets.
- Beneficiaries – These are the recipients of the property distributed from an estate, whether family members, friends, or organizations.
- Decedent/Deceased – These terms refer to the person who has died.
- Estate – The assets that belonged to the deceased person are collectively known as the estate.
- Intestate – This term refers to an estate whose owner died without a will. A probate court must determine how to distribute the assets of such an estate.
Speak with a Texas Probate Attorney Today
Managing your family’s affairs after the death of someone close is hard enough without all the extra strain of sorting out their estate. The probate process can be complicated, and mistakes could potentially be costly. You need a knowledgeable estate lawyer who can guide you through this process efficiently and with a minimum of stress. The Dallas estate planning and litigation attorneys of Staubus and Randall will be with you through the entire ordeal and can answer any questions you might have. Call us today at 214-691-3411 or fill out our contact form to set up a free consultation.