When a loved one dies, assuming they have a will, their chosen executor steps in to make sure that their estate is handled the way they intended.
Once the decedent’s real property and other assets are secured and the will has been located, it’s time to attend to the probate process. Although particularly complex estates can take years to close, most probate cases are resolved within a few months.
First, however, you have to get started. That’s a lot easier to do when you know what to expect.
The basic steps involved in probate
You have up to four years to actually file and get the process started, but there’s usually no reason to delay (and every reason to move forward as quickly as possible). To get through probate:
- Application: You need to file an Application for Probate with the Texas Probate Court in the county where the decedent lived.
- Posting: You will have to go through what is usually a two-week waiting period before the first hearing. During that time, the County Clerk will post a public notice at the courthouse that informs the public that your application has been filed. This notice serves to allow anybody who wants to contest the will (or your position as executor) a chance to act. If nothing is contested, the court can proceed with the hearing.
- Hearing: During the hearing, the judge can formally recognize the death of your loved one, verify that there is a will and verify your appointment as the executor (or appoint someone as an administrator).
- Cataloging: Once you’re formally named as executor, you need to prepare an inventory, appraisement and list of claims within 90 days. This allows the court to understand exactly what is in the estate, the approximate value of the estate and any outstanding creditor claims against those assets.
- Notifications: As the executor, you need to notify the decedent’s heirs and creditors. This helps facilitate the probate process so that all claims can be addressed.
Once all disputes (if there are any) are settled, then you’ll finally be able to distribute any remaining inheritances.
Handling probate can be a lot of work – and it can get confusing when you’re unfamiliar with how things work. Experienced legal guidance can make the process much easier.