If you have reservations about going through the probate process, you are not alone. For most people, probate administration is uncharted territory. From the terminology used to the court procedures involved, everything is unfamiliar and seems to involve a never-ending list of nuances and complexities.
But, with experienced probate administration representation, the process does not have to be overwhelming. In fact, for many families, it can be relatively straightforward. At Romano & Sumner, our Sugar Land probate lawyers focus on simplifying the process, helping our clients understand their circumstances, and making informed decisions at every step along the way.
It is important to know a few basic facts about probate in Sugar Land. Here are some key things to know if you are preparing for probate administration:
How long the process takes and how much it costs will depend on the specifics of the decedent’s estate and whether any disputes arise along the way. Our trusts and estates attorneys can help you understand what to expect and develop a plan for completing the process as efficiently as possible.
Under Texas law, there are two ways in which family members can become entitled to a share of a deceased loved one’s estate. The first is through the law of “intestate succession”. If your loved one either died without a will or died with a will that did not address his or her entire probate estate, Texas law specifies which family members are entitled to receive a share of the deceased’s property.
The second is through the terms of the decedent’s will. If your loved one died with a will, the terms of his or her will (assuming it is valid and enforceable) will override the default rules of intestate succession. If the will omit certain assets, those assets will still be distributed according to the statutory allocations.
If your loved one was in debt, his or her creditors (i.e. a mortgage lender, credit card company, or bank that provided a car loan) will generally be entitled to get paid first in the probate process. The personal representative outlined in the will must provide notice to the decedent’s creditors that they will be entitled to file claims against the estate before any property or asset gets distributed to heirs or beneficiaries.
Deciding which form of probate administration to use is one of the earliest steps in the probate process. Independent administration is only an option if your loved one’s will calls for independent administration or if all heirs (if your loved one died without a will) or beneficiaries (if your loved one had a will that did not provide for independent administration) agree to independent administration.
Otherwise, it will be necessary to use court-supervised dependent administration unless one of the small-estate options (i.e. the small estate affidavit or muniment of title) is available.
There are a number of issues that can potentially lead to disputes during probate administration. Some of the most common examples include disputes over the enforceability of the decedent’s will (i.e. due to questions of mental capacity or undue influence), claims against personal representatives, and disputes between heirs and beneficiaries. If you are concerned about a potential dispute during the probate process, seeking probate administration legal representation in Sugar Land early on can help reduce the chances of costly and contentious litigation.
Any claims as to the validity of the will are also part of the Texas probate administration proceedings. Wills must be executed in a specific manner to be valid. Additionally, there may be multiple versions of the will with different provisions, all created by the decedent. Typically, the latest version of the will is the one that will take effect, but this is only if that particular will is found to be valid. If the will submitted to probate is found to be invalid, the decedent’s estate will be administered if he or she had died intestate.
The determination of heirs becomes an issue for two very specific reasons:
Under any such circumstance, the local probate court acts according to the Texas laws of intestate succession to determine the distribution of the decedent’s property. For more information about your specific case, contact the Sugar Land probate administration lawyers at Romano & Sumner.
Texas probate administration proceedings are public records; as such, the terms of the will are available to anyone. Notice, typically by publication in a local newspaper, must be given to any individual who may have a claim against the estate of the deceased party so they may handle their claim in a timely manner.
It is important to distinguish the difference between a person’s probate estate and non-probate estate. Certain assets are transferred immediately upon the decedent’s death by operation of law without the need for probate. Examples include life insurance policies, any asset held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, assets with a pay on death beneficiary, and assets held in a valid trust.
A consultation with a Sugar Land probate lawyer immediately following a loved one’s death is one of the best steps you can take to make coping easier in such a difficult time. Consultation with proper legal counsel is the key to carefully managing an estate and is the best way to ensure a resolution as quickly and as economically as possible. For a free initial consultation, do not hesitate to contact the dedicated trust and estate attorneys at Romano & Sumner.
Romano & Sumner, PLLC