The Jacobson Law Firm, P.C. will guide you through all the legal requirements of probate to avoid delays and complications, helping you understand what needs to happen and ensure that you’re able to promptly, efficiently honor your loved one’s wishes.
Here are some of the ways Dana and his support staff can help:
- Advising the executor, trustee, beneficiary or heir to a loved one’s estate
- Assisting when a loved one dies without a will or estate plan in place
- Probating wills that were not done properly
- Probating a copy of a lost will
- Executing the will and transferring property to beneficiaries
Probate - A Primer
When you’ve lost a loved one, the last thing you want to think about is having to settle that person’s worldly affairs. Talking about who gets what after somebody dies may even seem disrespectful. However, promptly and efficiently closing that chapter of the person’s life by distributing the assets of the decedent (the person who died) as he or she wished and moving forward is a way to honor your loved one’s memory. Even if the decedent left no will – maybe especially if he or she left no will – distributing the assets removes one more thing from the path of closure.
I like to have an educated client base, and to ensure that clients understand the probate process when they retain the Jacobson Law Firm to settle an estate. To that end, here are some different ways an estate can be settled.
Probating A Will
If a person dies with a properly executed will, the probate process (at least in Texas) is pretty straightforward: file the will and a request to probate it with the court, have a hearing, get letters testamentary (which are proof that the executor has authority to deal with the assets of the decedent), prepare an inventory of the decedent’s property, pay debts of the estate and distribute what’s left to the beneficiaries named in the will. Obviously, it’s a lot more detailed than this summary, but this is the basic road map.
Heirship Proceedings (where there’s no will)
If the person dies without a properly executed (or any) will, that’s called dying “intestate”. An heirship proceeding generally takes longer, is more complicated, and can be more expensive. Any “interested person” can file an heirship application, which requests that the court determine who are the heirs of the person who died. These can include the surviving spouse, the children, the grandchildren, the sisters and brothers and the nieces and nephews. Note that I said it CAN include these people – the formula for figuring out who gets what is pretty complex, but it involves different rules for community property and separate property, whether the decedent had children with different people, etc., and the Texas Estates Code will control who gets what.
This can be either testate (with a will) or intestate, but it’s usually in conjunction with an heirship proceeding. The court appoints an independent administrator, who basically has all the same powers as an executor named in a will.
Again, this can be either testate or intestate. The administrator is appointed by the judge, but has to ask the court’s permission for pretty much anything he or she does regarding estate assets (selling property, hiring appraisers, closing accounts, distributing assets, etc.). The court often wants a dependent administrator if there’s conflict among the heirs, or there’s not an heir qualified to serve as independent administrator. This adds time and expense to the probate process, but normally ensures a fair distribution of the assets.
Administration with Will Annexed
Occurs where the person died with a will, but all the people he or she appointed to serve as executor have died or are disqualified from serving (previous felony conviction, incompetent, etc.). In this case, the court appoints a person to administer the estate according to the will.