When someone passes away, most of their assets and property will need to go through legal proceedings known as probate. This process is meant to ensure that any debts or financial obligations of the deceased are addressed. Probate also helps ensure that other assets are distributed according to their will or the priority order set by state law.
However, probate can be complex, depending on the specifics of a decedent’s estate. Those beginning the process should seek guidance from a seasoned trusts & estate attorney in order to progress through it efficiently. A knowledgeable Richmond probate lawyer can provide customized support throughout the legal proceedings to ensure that your loved one’s wishes are respected and all legal requirements are fulfilled.
Once a probate case is filed, the first step is to identify all eligible probate assets. This responsibility generally falls to the executor named in the decedent’s will. Any jointly held property that is payable on death or subject to a right of survivorship would not go through probate, nor would any retirement account or life insurance policy with a named beneficiary. However, the following assets will likely be included in the probate process:
Once the executor has created an inventory of estate assets, they must file that list with the probate court within 90 days of their formal appointment and confirmation. Afterward, the executor or their probate attorney must notify creditors of the decedent’s death in Richmond, identify priority debts, and pay off all outstanding obligations to whatever extent is possible using the decedent’s assets and liquidated property.
Finally, whatever assets remain in the estate after debt prioritization and repayment will be liquidated by the executor and distributed based on the instructions in the decedent’s will. In some cases, the executor may need to pay state and federal taxes on estate assets sold prior to distribution.
If someone dies without a will, or if a court rules that an existing will is invalid, their estate still must undergo probate in most cases. However, some steps of the process will work a bit differently.
Someone must first petition a court to determine who might be an eligible heir to the decedent’s estate. This process involves the court hiring an attorney ad litem to investigate the matter. Based on this investigation, the court would then issue a Judgement Declaring Heirship identifying eligible heirs.
Next, the decedent’s estate may go through independent or dependent administration, depending on whether the eligible heirs can agree to work together to ensure an equitable distribution of assets. If a total estate is valued at $75,000 or less, a simpler and more streamlined process may be available as an alternative. Either way, the division of community and separate property as determined by the court would proceed in accordance with Texas intestate succession laws, set out in Chapter 201, Subchapter A of the Texas Estates Code.
Seasoned legal counsel is crucial to successfully manage probate without a will. Those in this situation should reach out to a local attorney who is well-versed in Richmond intestate laws.
The probate process can be confusing for anyone who has not studied estate litigation law. In these complex legal proceedings, representation from a knowledgeable legal professional can make all the difference in your probate experience.
Romano & Sumner, PLLC