Probate Approach Overview
In general, Texas law establishes the process which is followed in either probating the will of a deceased person or administering the assets of someone who died without a will. Though the process may vary depending upon a variety of factors, typically the process includes the following steps for an uncontested probate or administration matter:
- Initial fact gathering by lawyer
- Lawyer and client confer to discuss elements of the estate including whether the decedent had a valid last will and testament, composition of the family, potential assets and debts of the estate, etc.
- Lawyer drafts and files application which initiates legal process
- in order to begin a probate or administration proceeding, a lawyer (on behalf of his client) will file an application for probate of a will or application for administration of the estate. Once filed, legal notice must be made informing any interested party of the application (such notice is customarily posted in the courthouse but may also include providing specific service of process to other interested parties).
- Court holds hearing on application
- After all the appropriate notices have been made and a short waiting period, the court will set a hearing for the applicant to provide sworn testimony about the decedent and his/her estate. In uncontested matters, such hearing is typically very brief and requires very little preparation for the client. In order to ensure that our clients are comfortable with the process before the hearing, Mr. Parvin generally holds a short telephone conference with our client in the days prior to the hearing. During the telephone meeting, he discusses the hearing process and other information relevant to that day. At the conclusion of the hearing, if the court admits the will to probate or opens an administration of the estate, the court may appoint a personal representative who is granted the legal authority to deal with the assets and debts of the estate. Such authority is evidenced by the granting of Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration.
- Post hearing matters
- Texas law requires that several matters be dealt with after the court hearing. Typically, such matters include the filing of an inventory, appraisement and list of claims (inventory detailing the assets of the estate), a notice to beneficiaries of the estate, creditors notices, etc. Our office will gather information from our clients so that such post-hearing matters are adequately and promptly handled.
- Transfer of property to heirs
- In many cases, the property of a deceased person needs to be conveyed from the estate to heir (which may include a legal heir or devisee of a will). In such cases, at the request of the personal representative, we can facilitate the drafting and appropriate filing of any new deeds, titles or conveyances to such property to ensure that legal ownership is properly held by the person inheriting the property.
While the foregoing process is merely an example of what typically happens, it is important to realize that each case can be different and, therefore, the process can be different. Complicating factors that can alter the process listed above include issues like contested matters, cases involving divorce or special needs parties, excessive debt cases, homicide/suicide, invalid estate planning documents, uncooperative witnesses, etc. Our goal is to ensure that each client has a smooth and efficient experience through the probate or administration process. Ultimately, whatever type of case you may have, our first priority is to ensure that our clients are effectively and efficiently represented at every step of the process.