The executor of a Texas estate has a lot of responsibilities, but most of their work is over when the assets are ready to be distributed to the named beneficiaries. By this point, they have taken all of the following steps, and many others:
- Contacting all beneficiaries and informing them of the person’s death.
- Notifying creditors of the decedent’s passing and validating all claims filed within the specified time frame.
- Paying all claims found valid by the executor or the court.
- Filing a federal estate tax return if the value of the estate exceeds $11.4 million (2019).
- Filing all required state estate tax returns.
- Paying all estate taxes and obtaining a release from the appropriate authorities
When an executor has paid all of a deceased person’s financial obligations, they may be required to file a final accounting with the court, distribute all remaining property to beneficiaries, and close the estate. Although Texas law does not require an estate to be officially closed, many dependent and independent executors do so in order to have the record show that they fulfilled their obligations.
What is the Closing Process?
The most common way of closing an estate in Texas is to file a Notice of Closing Estate with the county court. This document acts as an affidavit and confirms that you have discharged your duties. It must state the following:
- All known debts have been paid or satisfied as much as the estate assets would allow
- The name and address of each party that received assets
- Confirmation that each beneficiary received a copy of the Notice prior to filing, as well as proof of delivery, such as a fax transmission report or certified mail return receipt
If you provide a copy of the Notice to a beneficiary represented by an attorney, and that attorney has not appeared before the court, you should also attach documentation that indicates why you believe that the person is represented by counsel and that delivery of the Notice through that counsel would be effective.
Once you have delivered the Notice to all beneficiaries and gathered the proofs of delivery, you can file it with the court. After 30 days, the estate will be considered closed.
Although closing an estate in this manner does not relieve you of any potential liability in discharging your duties, a Notice of Closing Estate affirms your honest belief that no additional administration is necessary. It can also encourage beneficiaries to bring forward potential claims so that you can deal with them in a timely manner and minimize any damages that could arise from potential liability.
Should You Leave the Estate Open?
Although many executors want the record to reflect that they completed their administration of the estate, there are certain advantages to leaving it open.
For one, you will always technically be the executor. Even if ten years pass and you discover a bank account or real estate holding that missed your original audit, you still have the authority to claim and distribute it according to state law. If the estate is closed, this asset will remain unclaimed and none of the decedent’s heirs can inherit it.
Contact a Texas Probate Attorney
Estate administration is complicated, which is why most Texas courts require an executor to be represented by an attorney. As an executor, you represent the interests of the estate beneficiaries and creditors, and only a licensed attorney can represent the interests of others under Texas law.
There are limited circumstances where you can probate a will yourself. One example might be if you probated it as a muniment of title and you are the sole beneficiary of the estate (provided that there were no debts against the estate). But these situations are comparatively rare, and an experienced estate attorney is nearly always necessary to protect your interests and those of anyone who stands to benefit from the estate.
At Romano & Sumner, our team includes experienced Texas probate attorneys who understand how difficult it can be to administer and close a loved one’s estate while dealing with unexpected disputes like will contests or estate litigation. We will assist you with both the probate process and any obstacles to a successful estate closing. If you have questions or would like to speak to an attorney, please contact us or call 281-640-0264.