Probate is the process of administering a will after someone dies. The first step is to contact a probate attorney in your area. The attorney will look over the will and then start guiding you through the probate process. In Texas, the probate process is fairly efficient and often fairly inexpensive.
After you meet with your probate lawyer, the attorney will schedule a time to go to the probate court. A witness (sometimes two witnesses, depending on how the will was drafted) will go with the attorney to the probate court to “prove up” the will. The executor is typically the witness at the will prove-up. Proving up a will basically entails showing the court that the will is legally valid. Probate lawyers are familiar with the facts needed in order for the judge to accept the will as legally valid.
At the scheduled time, the probate attorney and witness[es] will go to the front of the probate courtroom before the judge. The attorney will begin asking the witness questions relating to the will. For example, the probate lawyer will ask things like, “Isn’t it correct that your Dad had his primary residence in Dallas County when he died?” The answers to the questions are usually very easy for the witness to answer; in fact, many probate lawyers will give their clients a sheet of paper that says exactly what they’ll ask and what the answer should be. The judge may ask the witness a few simple follow-up questions. Again, this process is intended to establish all the necessary facts to prove the will is valid. The prove-up process takes just 8-15 minutes in front of the judge.
Once the judge accepts the will as valid, the court will issue letters testamentary. Basically, this gives the executor the legal authority to administer the estate. For instance, with the letters testamentary, the executor can pay off debts, transfer title to property, and carry out the gifts in accordance with the will.
At the probate court for the will prove-up, the judge will mention that the executor must carry out an inventory and appraisement as well as give the required notice to the heirs under the will. These tasks are usually nothing to fret over, and your lawyer will be there to give guidance. Outside of that, in most cases, the executor will not need to interact with the court any further. The witness (generally, the executor) only has to make that one trip to the courthouse.
Please note that this process is relatively pain-free only if the person who died had a properly drafted will. That is, everything in this blog entry assumes the ideal situation. The streamlined probate process described in this blog entry only happens if there actually is a will, the will is valid, the will asked for “independent administration” of the estate, and so forth. Only your lawyer can tell you exactly how the process will work in your situation, but this blog entry gives you a rough idea of how the process often works.
Probating a will in Texas, unlike some other states, is generally not a huge hassle. At one time in the past, estate planners advised their clients to avoid probate like the plague. They would sell their estate planning clients living trusts and the like—just to avoid probate.
In Texas, for the most part, you don’t need to try to avoid probate. Probate is relatively straightforward IF there is a properly drafted will in place. That’s a BIG IF. This should highlight the importance of getting a lawyer to draft a will for you or for your loved ones. If you die without a will, your loved ones may get stuck spending more money to administer your estate, and it will probably be more frustrating for them, too. You can do a little legwork now and hire an estate planning lawyer, or you can risk giving your loved ones a hassle when you die.
As Benjamin Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
Isaac Shutt is the Attorney/Owner at Shutt Law Firm PLLC. Visit http://www.shuttlawfirm.com or email email@example.com. You can also call Mr. Shutt at (214) 302-8197 for more information on the topic discussed in this blog or to discuss a different legal matter. Phone-calls and quick e-mails are always free at Shutt Law Firm PLLC. Please consider the Shutt Law Firm if you’re looking for a Richardson probate lawyer, Richardson wills lawyer, Richardson estate planning attorney, or Richardson guardianship lawyer.
DISCLAIMER: Nothing in this blog post constitutes legal advice. If you have a legal question, you should consult an attorney. Further, nothing in this blog shall be construed to have started an attorney-client relationship. No such relationship exists until you sign an engagement letter with the Firm.