Probate is the first step in the process of dealing with a deceased person’s estate. To get started, first contact a probate lawyer to discuss the Texas probate process and potential probate alternatives. The probate attorney will look over the Last Will and then start guiding you through the probate process. In Texas, the probate process is efficient and comparatively inexpensive, especially with a knowledgeable probate attorney there to help.
Probate Process Step-by-Step
Generally, the person named executor (or “executrix”) in the Last Will handles the administration of the estate. The first job of the executor is to meet with a probate attorney. The lawyer will look over the Last Will to make sure it meets the legal requirements, gather basic information, let you know if any of the probate alternatives are available, and discuss the Texas probate process.
Meeting With the Probate Attorney
After the executor meets with the probate lawyer, the attorney will draft the necessary legal documents, then schedule a time to go to the probate court for the probate hearing. A witness (sometimes two witnesses, depending on how the Last Will was drafted) will go with the attorney to the probate court to “prove up” the will.
Probate Court Hearing
Proving up a will basically entails showing the probate court judge that the will is legally valid under Texas law. A witness is required at the probate court hearing, and the executor serves as the necessary witness. 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 judge may ask the witness a few simple follow-up questions. Again, the probate hearing is intended to establish all the necessary facts to prove that the Last Will is valid and that the named executor is best suited to serve.
Complete Probate Court Documentation
Once the judge accepts the will as valid, the court will issue letters testamentary. Basically, the letters testamentary give the executor the legal authority to handle the estate’s affairs. 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 Last Will.
At the probate court for the will prove-up, the judge will mention that the executor must file 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 the probate lawyer will be there to give guidance. Outside of that, in most cases, the executor will not need to interact with the probate 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 hassle-free only if the person who died had a properly drafted Texas Last Will and Testament. That is, the streamlined probate procedure described here only occurs if there actually is a will, the will is valid, the will is self-proved, the will asked for “independent administration” of the estate, and so forth. Only the probate lawyer can tell you exactly how the process will work in your situation.