ThD  D pWhat do you do when your mom or dad dies in Texas?  What legal steps should you take when a family member dies in Texas?  This post will discuss the practical steps to take when a family member has died in Texas.

The first step is to gather paperwork.  Start by looking for life insurance policies.  Many people will carry small life insurance policies that can pay out quickly that can help pay for funeral expenses.  So, if your parents owned a small insurance policy ($10,000 or less), get in touch with the life insurance company quickly to see if you can get a check to pay for burial, cremation, and/or your probate attorney.

Look for other life insurance policy paperwork (larger policies), and look to see if the policies have a beneficiary designation.  If there is a beneficiary designation, the insurance company will usually just need to see a copy of the death certificate before paying out to the named beneficiary.  By the way, if there is a beneficiary named on the life insurance policy paperwork, it doesn’t matter what the last will and testament states–the insurance company only pays out to the person(s) named as beneficiaries.

Look for a Last Will and Testament or Living Trust paperwork.  If the person who died left a Will, look to see who the will-maker named as the executor (or “executrix” if it’s a female).  Generally, the person named as the executor will handle hiring the probate attorney, handle the probate court process, and handle the estate.

Collect all of the deceased parent’s bills and start tallying a list.  There may be a significant amount of medical bills or utility bills.  Remember, even if you are executor, these debts are not your debts–only the decedent’s estate owes an obligation to pay the decedent’s debts. Don’t talk with any creditors without first discussing with the probate attorney.

Create a list of all the deceased parent’s property.  List all the cars, the house, retirement accounts, pensions, IRA’s, stocks, checking accounts, savings accounts, and any other property.  This helps the probate attorney prepare a task list for you.

If you are listed as a beneficiary on a retirement account or other account, they may also require a death certificate before cutting you a check.  The same is true of some bank accounts; so, give them a call to see if the bank accounts carried a beneficiary designation (usually called a “joint tenant with right of survivorship” designation).

Probate is the process of getting a Last Will legally recognized under Texas law.  Probate has its own legal courts and judges (especially in bigger counties like Dallas).

A probate attorney can help even if there is no last will and testament.  In fact, if the decedent died without a will, the probate court procedures can be even more complex than if the person had died with a will.  The probate lawyer will help tell you which bills to pay, what other steps to take, guide you through the probate court legal process, and answer your questions about selling property or otherwise handling the estate.

Once you have your probate attorney, you can discern which which probate procedure is appropriate for your situation.  Texas law provides for many different probate procedures that range in cost and complexity.  In fact, sometimes when a person dies, no probate procedure is necessary at all.

Once you have your lawyer, this attorney will walk you through the rest of the probate process.  Many Texas probate cases can be handled quickly and without large attorney fees or court costs.  Also, the probate lawyer will tell you which bills to pay, when to pay them, when to disburse the decedent’s assets (and how to sell the property), when to sell the decedent’s property, how to handle the different bank accounts, and more.



Shutt Law Firm provides probate court assistance if there was a will and when there was no will.  If your parent has died in Dallas (or surrounding areas), consider contacting Shutt Law Firm for a free legal consultation.  Remember, there are many simple and relatively inexpensive probate alternatives in Texas.

Visit for more information on Texas trusts, estate planning, administration of estates, probate, probate alternatives, avoiding probate, and guardianship.  You can also call the Texas probate attorneys at (214) 302-8197 for more information on the topic discussed in this blog or to discuss a different legal matter.    Please consider the Shutt Law Firm if you’re looking for a Richardson lawyer for probate, Richardson wills lawyer, estate planning attorney in Richardson, power of attorney in Richardson, or guardianship attorney in Richardson area.

DISCLAIMER:  Nothing in this blog post constitutes legal advice.  The information provided herein is merely provided in the spirit of education.  If you have a legal question, you should consult an attorney for your specific legal situation.   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.


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