If your loved one recently died, you may be dreading the process of probate. Whether you have seen news stories of celebrities whose estates dragged through years of contests and litigation or you have personal experience with a tedious and stressful probate, you are not looking forward to the months ahead for your loved one's little estate.
While it is often true that larger estates may languish in probate for years, this is not always necessary for small, simple estates. If your loved one lived a simple life and died with few assets and debts, probate may be a simpler process for you and your family.
Is your loved one's estate eligible for a simple probate?
Summary administration of small estates is an option the Texas probate courts offer under certain conditions. If your loved one died without a will and you are the estate administrator, you can petition for a summary probate after a certain amount of time has passed since your loved one's death. The benefits of a summary probate include not having to wait through a full probate process to obtain your inheritance and not having to go through a court hearing.
In order for your loved one's estate to qualify for a simple probate, its assets must not exceed the state mandated limit, which in Texas is $50,000 in addition to the homestead. Additionally, the estate must not have more debt than assets. To take advantage of a summary probate, you will follow these steps:
- Calculate the total value of the transferrable assets, excluding any joint tenancy property or other items that would not normally pass through probate.
- If the total is within the limits, file an affidavit summarizing the estate and petitioning the court for summary probation.
- After approval, you will have to wait an abbreviated time for any creditors to make claims on your loved one's property.
- Pay any taxes and debts your loved one owed.
- Distribute the remaining assets to your loved one's heirs.
- Close your loved one's estate.
Of course, this process will not work if there are disputes about the distribution of the assets. All the heirs to the estate must sign the affidavit agreeing to its contents. If anyone intends to contest the distribution of the assets, the court will not honor the summary probate, and you will likely face a long, protracted process.
For guidance with preparing your affidavit and summary probate petition, an experienced attorney can be of great assistance.