Probate of the estate in Texas is the administration of the estate of a decedent through court proceedings. The procedure is a legal process through which all claims against the estate are resolved. Claimants can include taxing authorities, creditors, heirs, and will beneficiaries. Whether or not probate is required depends on the type of assets owned by the deceased.

Death can be very traumatic and, at times, overwhelming for those left behind. Unfortunately, whilst dealing with grief, there are still bills to be paid and accounts to settle. The law firm of ALSTON & ENGELHAUPT, PLLC is sympathetic to the special needs of these cases and makes the process as painless as possible. If you have suffered the loss of a loved one and need the help of a lawyer who understands the problems you are facing, contact us now to arrange a free consultation.

As soon as possible after the funeral, a copy of the will and the death certificate should be taken to your attorney. Although the death certificate is not required to probate an estate, it can be helpful to your attorney when applying for probate. While waiting for your court date, it is highly recommended to begin completing an inventory of the estate's assets which will be required later, including the balance of all bank accounts at time of death, any investments, IRA's, insurance, and personal property. Depending upon the case load of the court, probate can start within a month after filing.

If the deceased made no will, you should contact your attorney as soon as possible to determine which procedure is required under Texas law and to avoid probate problems.

If creditors call, tell them they must wait until an executor or administrator has been appointed and make no commitments or sign any documents until you consult your attorney.

The law firm of ALSTON & ENGELHAUPT, PLLC accepts probate cases throughout Fort Bend County, Harris County, Galveston County and Brazoria County including Sugar Land, Missouri City, Stafford, Richmond, Rosenberg, Fresno, Clear Lake, League City, Webster, Friendswood, Pearland, and the Houston metropolitan area. Our attorneys have acted as, or represented clients in the following areas of practice: Independent Executor/Administration; Dependent Administration; Heirship Proceedings; Muniment of Title Proceedings; Small Estates; Will Contests; and Claims against the Executor/Administrator. If you are unsure of what steps you should take, contact our office now to arrange a free consultation.

Terms used in Probate:

The Executor or administrator is either named in the will or appointed by the testator to carry out the instructions of the will. Although not always the case, the executor is usually the one who offers the will for probate. The executor collects information about other potential heirs, disburses property to the designated beneficiaries, collects and pays debts of the estate, and calculates and pays estate taxes. The executor may also sue and be sued on behalf of the estate. Although the executor holds legal title to all estate property, unless expressly mentioned in the will, it may not be used for the executor's personal benefit.

Dependent Administration is the term used when the administrator is dependant on the court to approve any action performed on behalf of the estate, including the paying of any debts, the sale or distribution of assets, etc. Unless the beneficiaries of the estate and heirs unanimously agree to a waiver, the administrator is required to post a bond to protect the estate.

Heirship Proceedings: This is a procedure where the judge may appoint an attorney to represent the interests of a non-resident, an unborn child, a person with a legal disability, or an unknown heir.

Muniment of Title Proceedings eliminate the need for an administrator, and the transfer of the estate is carried out without the costly and sometimes lengthy probate process. If a will has been probated as Muniment of Title, a spouse may simply present the will and the order admitting it to probate to claim assets such as stock certificates or bank accounts. This procedure is only allowed when the estate has no unpaid debts, excluding liens on real estate, etc., and it is proven before the court that there is no need for an administrator.

A collection of a Small Estate by affidavit may be approved provided that there is no will being offered for probate; there is no pending petition for dependent administration; the total value of the estate, excluding any homestead and other exempt property is not more than $50,000; two disinterested witnesses sign a sworn affidavit regarding heirship; and thirty days have elapsed since the death of the decedent.

Will Contests: The admission of a will to probate may be contested by litigation. However, the will may not be contested simply because a beneficiary or heir does not like the will's content or does not consider it fair. The will may be contested if beneficiaries or heirs assert the decedent lacked mental capacity at the time the will was drafted, the decedent was coerced or subject to fraud or deception, the will was forged, or it does not conform to applicable law.

For more information about probate in Fort Bend County, Harris County, Galveston County and Brazoria County including Sugar Land, Missouri City, Stafford, Richmond, Rosenberg, Fresno, Clear Lake, League City, Webster, Friendswood, Pearland, and the Houston metropolitan area, or if you require a probate attorney, please contact us.