Meeting with Your Attorney
Your attorney will need the following information to prepare an application to probate a Will or administer an estate. In order to move forward in a timely manner, it is helpful to have these details and documents with you when you meet with your attorney for the first time:
- Decedent’s name;
- Copy of decedent’s Death Certificate;
- Dates of decedent’s birth and death;
- Decedent’s age at the date of death;
- County in which decedent died;
- Decedent’s address at the time of death;
- The county where the majority of decedent’s assets are located;
- Decedent’s parents’ information;
- Decedent’s siblings’ information;
- Decedent’s children’s information (including adopted children);
- Decedent’s spouse’s information;
- Information regarding all marriages and divorces;
- Whether decedent’s spouse is a common law spouse;
- Name and address of the applicant and the applicant’s relationship to decedent;
- General idea of the value of decedent’s estate;
- Original or copy of the Will (if applicable);
- Copy of the trust (if applicable); and
- Reason for the need to administer the estate (in administration proceedings).
Familiarize Yourself with Vocabulary
Accounting. A document that sets out the property which came into the hands of the fiduciary, the disposition of such property, the debts or expenses that were paid, any debts or expenses remaining to be paid, and property remaining in the estate.
Administrator. A person appointed by a court to administer the estate of a deceased person who died intestate or with a Will but failed to name a person in such Will to serve as Executor who is able and willing to so serve. So long as all distributes agree, an Administrator may serve independently and free of court supervision.
Attorney Ad Litem. An attorney appointed by a court to represent and advocate on behalf of unknown, missing, or incapacitated heirs.
Creditor Claim. Claim for money against an estate. In dependent administrations, claims are classified according to priority with funeral expenses taking the highest priority.
Distributee. A person who is entitled to a part of the estate of a decedent under a lawful Will or pursuant to a Judgment Declaring Heirship.
Executor. The personal representative of an estate appointed pursuant to the Will of a decedent. Often, an Executor in Texas serves independently and free of court supervision.
Estate. The probate estate of a decedent consists of real and personal property owned by the decedent on the decedent’s date of death and not passing to others via beneficiary designation, a pay on death provision, a joint tenant with right of survivorship agreement, or some other transfer related agreement.
Family Settlement Agreement. A specific type of settlement agreement, usually entered into when potential beneficiaries and other interested parties are considering contesting a Will’s validity or the heirship of a decedent.
Fiduciary. Anyone who holds control or custody over the funds or property for the benefit of another person.
Fiduciary Duties. Fiduciaries owe those they serve duties of loyalty and good faith, integrity of the strictest kind, fair, honest dealing, and the duty of full disclosure.
Heir. A person who is entitled under the statutes of descent and distribution to a part of the estate of a decedent who dies intestate.
Heirship. Process by which the court determines who is entitled to the assets of a decedent’s estate pursuant to the laws of descent and distribution when the decedent died intestate or left a Will but the Will failed to dispose of all of the decedent’s property.
Interested Person. An heir, devisee, spouse, creditor, or any other person having a property right in or claim against an estate being administered.
Intestate. Used to describe a person who dies without leaving a valid Last Will and Testament.
Inventory. A list of estate assets coming into the hands of the Executor or Administrator.
Letters of Administration. A document issued by the County Clerk indicating that the person named is authorized to act as Administrator for a decedent’s estate. Letters of Administration are issued when the decedent died intestate or failed to name an Executor in a Will who is willing and able to so serve.
Letters Testamentary. A document issued by the County Clerk indicating that the person named is authorized to act as Executor for a decedent’s estate pursuant to an appointment in a Will.
Will. A legal document that, if admitted to probate, typically names beneficiaries and fiduciaries.