Wills, Probate, and Trusts Lawyers
Acquiring a competent attorney to handle the estate planning affairs of a loved one is essential to protecting the integrity of your loved one’s wishes for how their estate is handled after they are gone. In the event that your loved one died without a will, it is the the court that decides how the estate is distributed among the heirs. Texas probate law is often complex and hiring an attorney to assist you can alleviate the stress of an already difficult situation.
Our firm also provides the service of drafting wills and other testamentary documents to plan for the future.
Probate Questions And Answers
Summarized from “Texas Probate Passport: A Guide to Probate and Estate Planning in Texas”; Texas Bar Journal, January 2012, Vol. 75, No. 1
- What is probate?: Probate is the court’s process of winding up a deceased person’s financial affairs and distributing their assets. Typically, once creditors are paid, the remaining assets are distributed in the manner described in the deceased person’s will.
- Can I probate an estate without a will?: Yes, but the process becomes more difficult. The court must determine the deceased person’s heirs and will then appoint an independent administrator. You should consult an attorney about exploring alternate options to probate.
- What if I cannot find the original will, but only a copy?: Texas law does allow for a copy to be probated if the original will is lost, but this is a difficult process. If the original will cannot be found, there is a presumption that the will has been revoked. The judge will not always allow a copy of a will to be probated.
- Do I have to have an attorney to represent me?: Yes, almost every court requires an independent executor (the person in charge of winding up the deceased person’s affairs) to be represented by an attorney. The probate process is often complex, involving numerous creditors and beneficiaries.
- How long do I have to probate an estate?: Generally, an application for probate must be filed within four years of the date of death.
- Does probate mean I have to go to court?: Yes, if you are named as the executor of the estate. While most of the hearings may be handled by your attorney, the executor will need to go to the hearing at which the judge will admit the will to probate. At this same hearing, the executor will also take an oath before the court.
- I was told that probate is expensive and I should avoid it. Is that true?: Generally, probate is not expensive in Texas. Texas allows “independent administration,” which avoids costly probate court procedures.
- What are letters testamentary?: Letters testamentary are the official court documents authorizing the executor to act for the estate. The executor will need this document to prove their authority to others when winding up the deceased person’s affairs.
- If I do not have a will, does the state get all my assets?: Not usually. When a person dies without a will, that person’s assets go to their heirs as determined by Texas law. If a person has no heirs, then their assets could go to the state.
We understand that these are probably only a few of the questions you have. You can find out more when you speak with an attorney.