Probate Attorneys in the Woodlands, Texas Serving in Harris and Surrounding Counties
Introduction to the Probate Process
One of the first steps in administering a loved one’s estate is to determine whether he or she had a Will. If your loved one had been working on their estate planning, it is likely that they hired an attorney to help them. This attorney will be able to assist in locating any estate planning documents. If you are unsure whether or not your loved one worked with an attorney, he or she may have files in their home or office that contain records of meetings with a lawyer, or drafts of estate planning documents. It is crucial to locate any Wills that your loved one may have left behind. If a Will exists, it may be filed with the court for probate. If a Will is not located, the estate may require administration in absence of a Will.
If you have been appointed as executor or trustee in a Will or Trust, or if you stand to inherit from a loved one who died without a will and are seeking to be appointed the Administrator of your loved one’s estates, be prepared as you are about to embark on a journey. To make your journey less stressful, you will need a knowledgeable and experienced guide.
Finding and Meeting with Probate Attorney
Finding an attorney can be difficult. When you are looking for an attorney, it is best to rely on referrals from family, friends, coworkers, and business associates who have personally dealt with the attorney being referred. The best referral source for an attorney is a satisfied client. If you are looking for an attorney using the internet, to increase the likelihood that you will find an attorney knowledgeable in the area of estate administration or probate, consider contacting an attorney who is Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Attorneys who are Board Certified practice primarily in the areas of specialization.
It is often difficult to know what a loved one owned unless the person was a spouse. While you do not need a comprehensive and detailed list of assets for your initial meeting with your attorney, it will be important for the attorney to know he value and nature of the assets in the estate. You may find important clues regarding the assets of an estate by reviewing the Decedent’s mail, bank statements, and income tax returns. Learn more about meeting with a probate attorney.
Forms of Estate Administration
The most common form of administration is an independent administration. An independent administration may be had when:
- The decedent provided for an independent administration in the decedent’s Will;
- All distributees under a Will agree on the advisability of an independent administration when the Will fails to provide for independent administration; or
- All heirs of a decedent who died intestate (without a will) agree to an independent administration and nominate an independent administrator.
In an independent administration, the executor or administrator is allowed to administer the decedent’s estate without court supervision. The executor or administrator need not ask court permission to sell or distribute assets. However, if the sale or distribution does not take place correctly, then the executor or administrator can be personally liable to the beneficiaries or heirs. Learn more about independent administration.
When a decedent dies without a Will, the heirs may collectively designate a person to serve as the independent administrator. Before this happens, however, the court must determine who the heirs are and this is done via an heirship proceeding. Learn more about independent administration without a Will.
Dependent administrations result when:
The Will fails to provide for an independent administration and the distributees fail to agree on the advisability of an independent administration;
The Will provides for an independent administration but the estate is heavily indebted and a dependent administration is advisable;
A decedent dies intestate (without a will) and the heirs cannot agree on the advisability of an independent administration or a minor child is an heir and cannot offer the consent necessary to allow for an independent administration
In a dependent administration, the executor or administrator must be bonded before being installed to act on behalf of the estate. In addition, the executor or administrator must seek the court’s authorization before he may sell assets, settle claims, etc. Further, the administration is required to file an annual accounting and a final accounting. Dependent administrations tend to be more expensive and time consuming as compared to independent administrations. Learn more about dependent administration.
An heirship proceeding is really a declaratory judgment action whereby the heirs of a decedent dying intestate (without a will) are determined by the court. The heirs of a decedent are determined in accordance with the laws of descent and distribution in Texas. Normally, an administration on a decedent’s estate may not be opened after four years have elapsed from decedent’s death. However, the heirship of a decedent may be determined at any time.
Though most heirships result when a decedent dies intestate (without a will), heirships may also be determined when a Will fails to distribute all of a testator’s property or when trusts terminate and it is unclear to whom the remainder interest passes. Learn more about heirship proceedings.
To learn more about probate in Texas, consider reviewing the following topics: