Probate court is a place where the stories of people’s lives unfold. It’s where emotions run high, where the past meets the present, and where the future is shaped.
As the surviving loved ones, you are tasked with distributing assets, paying off debts, filing taxes, and more. It’s a lot to take on while mourning.
Having an experienced probate attorney to guide you makes all the difference during this difficult time. At Your Legacy Legal Care, our team has helped countless families navigate Texas probate courts.
We know this process can feel daunting and confusing, especially when you’re grieving. Our goal is to empower you. In this guide, we walk through the key steps of what happens in probate court so you can feel fully prepared and supported.
The probate of an estate in Texas involves preparing and filing various legal documents throughout the proceedings.
Some of the core documents include:
Proper preparation and filing of these documents is critical to moving efficiently through the probate process.
When a person passes away without leaving a valid will, their estate must go through probate court if they own real estate, oil and gas, and minerals, as well as any asset without a beneficiary designation. This involves a series of legal procedures intended to collect assets, pay debts and taxes, and distribute property to beneficiaries according to the will.
Here is a more in-depth look at what happens in each phase of probate court proceedings:
The first step is to file a petition with the appropriate county probate court in Texas to officially commence proceedings. This petition asks the court to admit the decedent’s last will and testament to probate and appoint the executor named in the will.
At the initial court hearing, the probate judge reviews the will to validate it. The judge then officially appoints the executor named in the will to oversee administering the estate.
The executor must provide proper legal notice to all beneficiaries named in the will and to any known creditors. This allows interested parties to assert any claims on estate assets and funds.
The executor must file a detailed inventory that accounts for all of the decedent’s assets as well as any outstanding debts and liabilities.
The executor must address any claims made against the estate by creditors. This involves reviewing claims for validity, negotiating repayment, and using estate funds to settle legitimate debts.
The executor must file applicable tax returns on behalf of the estate, including estate tax returns. Any taxes owed must be paid out of estate proceeds.
Once all valid claims and taxes are paid, the executor distributes the remaining assets to the beneficiaries as outlined in the decedent’s will.
Finally, the executor can petition the court to close the estate after completing administration and distribution. Once approved, the executor is discharged from duties by the judge. Most will not file to close the estate as it is more costly to reopen if assets are found in the future.
While standard probate with a valid will follows the main steps outlined above, there are some common situations that can alter the usual proceedings:
Having an experienced probate attorney allows us to help you navigate any variations from normal proceedings. We have the legal skills to handle complications and customize our counsel to your specific situation.
Having an experienced probate attorney assist you through the probate process can be invaluable. A knowledgeable probate lawyer can ensure that all of the required legal filings and notices are handled properly and deadlines are met. They will help you gather and prepare the necessary documentation, such as the inventory of estate assets.
A probate attorney can also negotiate creditor claims against the estate and make sure any required taxes are filed and paid correctly. They will counsel you on your options for distributing assets to beneficiaries and closing out the estate according to the specifications in the will.
Overall, having an estate planning attorney to guide you helps the probate process go as smoothly and efficiently as possible while avoiding costly legal errors. Their counsel can prove invaluable well beyond the closure of the estate, too, as they can continue assisting you with any residual matters related to the estate or probate proceedings even after the court formally closes the case.
Going through probate can be complex and emotionally draining – but you don’t have to go through it alone. The dedicated attorneys at Your Legacy Legal Care provide tailored guidance through the probate process when there is a valid will. We will handle the proceedings on your behalf so you can focus on honoring your loved one’s wishes.
Our decades of combined probate experience in Harris County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Chambers County, and Liberty County allow us to protect your rights, efficiently execute the will, and ensure proper asset distribution. We are your compassionate legal partners, here to support you every step of the way.
Contact us today to schedule a consultation – we’re ready to help you move forward during this difficult time.
Kimberly Hegwood is the Managing Attorney of Your Legacy Legal Care, a Houston estate planning law firm. With more than 25 years of experience practicing law in Texas, she represents clients in a wide range of legal matters, including elder law, asset protection, estate planning, Medicaid crisis planning, probate, guardianship, and other estate planning practice areas.
Kimberly received her Juris Doctor from the South Texas College of Law and is a member of the State Bar of Texas.
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