The probate process in Texas involves specific legal procedures for executing a will and settling an estate after someone dies. These actions are carried out under the jurisdiction of specialized county probate courts in Texas.
Introduction to Texas Probate Law
Texas has specific laws governing probate, which is the court-supervised process for administering a deceased person’s estate. The probate process involves:
- Validating the will
- Appointing an estate administrator
- Identifying assets
- Paying debts and taxes
- Distributing remaining assets
Filing the Petition with the County Probate Court
To initiate probate, the executor named in the will files a petition with the probate court. If there was no executor named in the will, the court will generally appoint one. The petition includes:
- Name, death date, and address of the deceased
- Copy of the will
- Request for an executor appointment
- Relevant estate information
The court reviews the petition and may request supplemental documents. If approved, the court provides instructions for administering the estate according to the will. A copy of the will must also be filed with the county records office. The records office will keep a copy of the will for five years after it is filed.
Appointing the Estate Administrator
Once the petition is approved, the probate court formally appoints an administrator, usually the executor named in the will. The administrator’s duties include:
- Notifying beneficiaries
- Managing estate assets
- Paying debts and taxes
- Distributing inheritances
The court supervises the administrator to ensure adherence to the will and legal procedures.
Timeline for Probate Proceedings
The probate timeline varies depending on the estate’s complexity. On average, probate takes six to twelve months. Key milestones include:
- Filing petition with court: 1-2 weeks
- Appointing estate administrator: 2-4 weeks
- Notifying beneficiaries: 2-3 weeks
- Filing inventory with court: 1-2 months
- Paying debts and taxes: 2-4 months
- Distributing inheritances: 4-8 months
Probate fees depend on the estate’s value and the will’s complexity. Costs may include:
- Court Filing Fees: $120-$400
- Attorney Fees: $250-$500 per hour
- Administrator Fees: Under the Texas Estates Code, the standard compensation is a five (5%) percent commission on (1) all amounts that the executor or administrator receives; or (2) pays out in cash in the administration of the estate.
- Accountant Fees: $150-$300 per hour
- Appraisal/Valuation Costs for Assets
- Tax Preparation Fees
Larger or contentious estates incur higher overall probate costs. Fees are paid from the estate.
Probating a Will Without a Lawyer
There are several steps that must be followed in order to probate a will in Texas without a lawyer, and if any of these steps are not performed correctly, the probate can be delayed or even prevented:
- Have all necessary documents prepared: This includes copies of the will, any estate planning documents that were created as part of the will, and any witnesses who will testify at the probate hearing.
- Contact the county courthouse and schedule a hearing: This is typically done by mailing or faxing a request to the court. The court will then notify all interested parties (the heirs and creditors of the decedent, for example) about the hearing date and time.
- Attend the hearing: If there are any objections to the will, heirs may want to attend this hearing in order to defend their interests. If everything goes smoothly, however, there is usually no need for heirs to attend.
- Submit the will to the court for probate: At the probate hearing, the court will officially approve the will and appoint a probate trustee to carry out the provisions of the will. The probate process can take several months, which means delays may occur.
Alternatives to Probate in Texas
Texans have alternatives to avoid full probate, including:
- Setting up a living trust
- Using payable-on-death accounts
- Holding assets jointly
- Gifting assets before death
However, these tools still require legal guidance to properly execute.
Navigating Texas probate involves precise steps like filing a petition, appointing an administrator, and distributing assets. Completing probate in takes 6-12 months on average and incurs court, legal, and administrative fees. Consulting a qualified probate attorney is key for smoothly executing a will and settling an estate.
Our Dallas Probate Attorneys provide a full range of probate services to our clients, including helping with probate administration. Probate is what we do. Affordable rates, fixed fees, and payment plans are available. We provide step-by-step instructions, guidance, checklists, and more for completing the probate process.We have years of combined experience we can use to support and guide you with probate and estate matters. Call us today for a FREE attorney consultation.
Disclaimer: The content of this website is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The information presented may not apply to your situation and should not be acted upon without consulting a qualified probate attorney. We encourage you to seek the advice of a competent attorney with any legal questions you may have.