Parvin Law Group’s
General Guide to the Probate Process
Every year, Americans invest billions of dollars going through probate proceedings.
Save your family costly delays or added expenses by trusting our proven process.
You might have heard that you should avoid probate at all costs, but why; or how?
Learn more about the basic legal proceedings involved with Probate and Estate Administration here.
If you are in need of a probate lawyer or looking for legal guidance, our professional team of attorneys is here to help.
What Is Probate?
Probate is a legal process that happens after someone dies. Generally, the process involves acknowledging a person’s death, overseeing the payment of the deceased’s debts, and disbursing their personal assets. Formally, the legal process is in place “to prove” one’s Last Will & Testament is a valid legal document. Local probate courts will make determinations in proceedings and aim to protect the interests of all parties involved, including creditors and beneficiaries of the estate. Having an attorney familiar with the process will assist in managing the probate process easier for you and your family.
Many estates will go through court proceedings when a person dies in Texas. Our trusted team of Dallas probate attorneys are here to guide you and ensure you understand every step of the process.
Common Legal Terms
Going through the process of probate in Texas involves legal terms that might be unfamiliar or unclear. A few key terms you should know and understand include:
- Decedent: The legal term used for a person who has died and whose estate will undergo the probate process.
- Will: A legal document that outlines how a decedent would like their assets distributed.
- Estate: An estate includes all of a person’s tangible assets such as cash, property, stocks, insurance policies, retirement accounts, vehicles, and personal belongings.
- Beneficiaries: The people named in a will who receive assets from the estate. If there is no will, a court will decide who gets the estate according to state law.
- Executor: An Executor is a person who is appointed to administer a person’s estate upon their death. Their primary duty is to carry out the wishes of the deceased person based on instructions spelled out in their will or trust documents, ensuring that assets are distributed to the intended beneficiaries.
- Administrator: If someone dies without a will and no executor is named, in Texas. the courts typically appoint an individual from a statutory priority list to serve.
Should I Hire a Probate Lawyer?
There are over 18 probate courts within 10 counties throughout Texas. All probate courts can be found listed here. Each Texas court has its own nuances of proceedings and qualifications, further complicating the probate process. Compared to many states, Texas probate laws are fairly simple and straightforward. For example, an attorney is not required to administer a Will in the State of Texas. However, self-filing incorrect court documents or missing steps can lead to a case being thrown out or denied.
The probate process is very detail-oriented and involves extensive legal knowledge. Each case is unique, and the process could be as simple as a few filings and a single court hearing, or it could be complex and require extensive court involvement and considerable legal efforts. If you are unsure of where to start or even how much work the probate process will involve, schedule a consultation with our team by filling out the form to the right, or calling (214) 974-8940.
Navigating the legal hurdles after a loved one has passed is a daunting and often overwhelming task. We’ve helped countless Texans get through the probate process so they can grieve in peace and honor their loved one’s legacy. If you have a loved one that has passed, fill out our form to schedule a consultation with our trusted attorneys.
Probate doesn’t have to be complicated or costly. Our proven approach to the Probate Process is tried and true with almost every case. Learn more about our straightforward probate steps by clicking here.
What Are the Different Processes in Texas?
When dealing with the death of a loved one, it is important to understand the different types of processes involved. While there are several options and solutions, understanding a few of the most common proceedings will come in handy.
When someone dies, they either had a Will, or they did not. If the person who is deceased established a Last Will & Testament, this person has died “testate” and the will goes through Probate. If there is not a valid will, the decedent has passed “intestate” and the court will establish an Administration.
There are two types of probate in Texas:
- Dependent Administration: This process requires more court supervision and a probate judge’s approval throughout every step of the probate process. Dependent administration is usually required if the estate is disputed or contested between beneficiaries, or if there is a minor child. Dependent administration can be confusing and costly, depending on the size of the estate, it can cost thousands of dollars more to go through this process.
- Independent Administration: This is a cheaper, easier type of probate that a Will can create under specific circumstances. It is also an option when the heirs of an estate without a Will can undergo if all heirs agree. Under this administration, Executors/administrators can settle estates without court supervision. More than 80 percent of Texas probates are independently administered.
Frequently Asked Questions
If joint accounts are established with “rights of survivorship,” then they are not subject to the probate process. However, Texas law says that joint accounts are not created with right of survivorship unless the account holders specifically designate it when the account is created.
While each case is different, the majority of all civil legal actions that are filed eventually settle before trial. Because there are no guarantees that your case will settle, it is prudent for your attorney to prepare the case to be decided in court. In almost every case, the attorneys and parties will eventually consider discussion of settlement options and/or mediation (a formal negotiation meeting to discuss settlement). Depending on the case, occasionally, the court will need to approve a settlement between parties.
Under Texas law being the surviving spouse does not mean you can automatically avoid the probate process. Under a traditional deed in Texas, a home does not automatically transfer to the surviving spouse upon death. The same goes for cars, stocks, and other assets.
If the deceased owned any real estate or other property that did not have beneficiaries named, then the Will must be probated in order to transfer titles to lawful heirs.
It’s best to speak to a probate lawyer and ask them. Typically, that lawyer is going to start by examining the Last Will and Testament of the deceased and ascertaining whether the Will allows for “Independent Administration” or administration that is “free from court supervision.” If it does, then it is likely the probate will be a simple process. Even if it does not, however, there are sometimes still options that allow a simplified, independent administration of the estate.
Each case is different. Some cases involve a fairly simple legal process that requires only one court hearing and a few legal filings. Other cases, however, require extensive court involvement and considerable effort. Typically, the difference involves the type and extent of the estate plan the deceased had in place. A licensed attorney can help you better understand how complicated your case may be.
These are the two most commonly asked questions when clients first speak to a lawyer about their case. Bluntly, the answer to each is, “I don’t know.” Various factors exist related to the cost and lengthiness of a litigation that can affect both. Some of those factors relate to the complexity of the issues involved, the manner in which the other party or parties litigate the case, and when the court will hear the case.
You have four years from the date of the decedent’s death to file the Will for probate. If the Will is never filed, the decedent is treated as having died without a Will, and the heirs determined under Texas law will be entitled to the decedent’s assets.
“Intestate” means that a person died without a valid Will.
If you don’t probate a Will, then certain assets may not be properly transferred and may stay in the name of the deceased. For example, if nothing is done to formally transfer the title from the deceased to the heirs or beneficiaries, then the home will not be able to go up for sale.
A decedent is a legal term for a person who has died. Courts and court documents regularly use this word in place of the name of the person who has died.
A homestead is a place lived in and owned by an individual and not a company. It can be located on owned or leased land, as long as the person that lives in the home owns the structure.
Estate administration is a legal process where an estate is managed (such as settling claims, paying debt, distributing property) after an estate administer is approved by a court.
While many estates are uncomplicated and resolved with relative ease, occasionally, legal fights break out between loved ones, heirs to estates, creditors, and other property owners. When this happens related to a deceased person’s estate, the parties will often litigate the matter in a court of law. Such cases include a variety of different issues but some of the most common involve claims that a deceased person did not have the requisite mental capacity to execute a Will or Trust, that someone unduly influenced the deceased person regarding the Will or Trust, that a beneficiary or heir is not being given information or distributions or that someone stole from the estate or a fraud has been committed.
In most contexts, the word “probate” refers to the legal process that deals with the assets and debts left behind after someone dies. By default, probate is supervised by a court, called the probate court. When someone dies with a Last Will and Testament, the probate process is used to prove the validity of a will. Depending upon the type of probate matter, most probate actions in Texas can be relatively simple and cost-effective.
First things first, go speak to an attorney who practices probate litigation (our firm does). Be prepared to explain to the attorney generally what has happened, who is involved, and what their claims are. You should do so immediately before doing anything else.
When someone dies without a Will in Texas, the decedent’s “heirs” are entitled to the property of the estate.