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The probate process is a legal process in which an instrument is judicially determined to be the executed last will of a decedent, or in the case where there is no will, it is the proceeding in which the legal heirs are judicially determined.
The executor named in the will (or an administrator appointed by court if there is no will) performs several duties:
At the end of the probate process, title passes to the beneficiaries.
There are several ways that the assets of an estate can be passed to its beneficiaries in Texas.
After a will has been admitted to probate and the independent administrator has been qualified, the independent administrator files with the court an inventory and appraisal of the estate’s assets and a list of claims against the estate. Afterward, the administrator will administrate the estate without any further court involvement or supervision.
Where there is no will or where the will doesn’t call for independent administration, the executor or administrator can request the court to grant them authority to act as an independent administrator if all beneficiaries agree.
An independent administrator may be removed for good cause. For example where the administrator:
An informal family settlement is possible for some estates where there are no title documents involved and the surviving family members are able to wind up the decedent’s affairs informally. A family settlement is only advisable when the estate has no debts that will not be paid through the probate process. All interested persons must agree as how the estate is to be distributed.
Even where a will is filed for probate, it may not be necessary to have a full estate administration. Where the court finds that there is no need for administration of an estate, it may state its order that no necessity for administration exists – for example where a decedent passes away and leaves behind a minor child or spouse. The court may revoke its order of no administration if additional property is discovered or if it appears that administration is necessary.
In certain situations, a will can simply be admitted to probate in order to pass title without administration. For example, where there is real property and no outstanding debts owed by the estate, the only thing that must be done is admit the will to probate. That will will constitute a “muniment of title.”
A simplified small estate process may be used where the value of the intestate estate does not exceed $75,000.
Dependent or court-supervised administrations are rare in Texas due to better alternatives. In general there are three parts to a dependent administration:
Probate is a process. It is one that has many steps and one that can lead to missteps. This is particularly true in non-uniform probate states, such as Texas. This is true for even small probate estates in Texas.
While Texas probate law is constantly changing and efforts have been made to make the process less onerous, it can still be a time consuming, stressful, and expensive process.
In every Texas county, including Houston or Harris County, probate starts by either lodging a will with or filing an application for probate with the probate court.
Texas probate laws impose specific deadlines, mandate that certain filings are made, and require certain notices, forms, and tax returns be filed. The procedures can vary greatly from one county to the next.
The probate process concludes when the executor or administrator is discharged by the court.
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