When your loved one dies, it can be overwhelming in so many respects. The emotional trauma can be hard enough, but if you find out that you are the executor of his or her estate, the next steps can be foreign, confusing, and scary.
In Texas, you will have to hire an attorney to probate a will. Attempts to navigate the probate waters yourself will often result in a letter from the court advising you to hire an attorney in order to proceed any further. Fortunately, Texas allows for “independent administration” which is one of the least expensive and most forgiving probate systems in the country. “Independent administration” means that, for the most part, the “independent” executor can act free from court supervision.
The probate process is not wholly free from court involvement, however. For a regular probate in Texas, your attorney will start by drafting and filing an application to probate the Will. Statutes mandate what information is required in the application, and a copy of the Will is attached to the application. Then, your attorney will deliver the original Will to the court clerk. The court clerk will post citation, and after a waiting period, your attorney will set your probate application for a hearing. That’s right – you get to go to court! When you get to court, your attorney will ask you questions in front of the judge and you will testify about the authenticity of the Will and your ability to qualify as the executor. If all goes well, you will sign a paper copy of your testimony, the court will order the will admitted to probate, you will sign an Oath, and you will receive your Letters Testamentary. Your Letters Testamentary is a piece of paper that officially states that you have been appointed as executor to act on behalf of the estate.
Within thirty days from your appointment, you will need to notify any of your loved one’s creditors about your appointment. This is done by publishing a notice in the newspaper, as well as direct notice to some or all known creditors. You will have to report to the court that you did this.
By sixty days from your appointment, you will need to notify the beneficiaries of the Will that the Will was admitted to probate and that you are the executor. Again, you will need to report to the court that you did that.
By ninety days from your appointment, you will need to file an “Inventory, Appraisement, and List of Claims” with the court. This is a snapshot of what your loved one owned and how much it was worth on the day that he or she died.
And that is all of the court involvement for a regular, independent administration. But of course, that is not all that your job as executor involves. You are responsible for collecting estate assets, settling creditor’s claims, and disbursing the remainder of the estate to the beneficiaries as directed by the will. Fortunately for you, because you will have an attorney, he or she should help you with all of the requirements of court and can help guide you through the rest of the steps until you have settled the estate.
Finally, if you are wondering if you “really” need to probate the Will, what happens if you cannot find a Will, or if there are other ways for achieving probate, all of those answers are “it depends.” You should visit with your attorney to discuss your specific situation and alternatives that may be available, and you can always check back here for other blog posts that will discuss some of those issues.