What is Probate Estate Administration?
Probate is the legal process concerning a decedent’s estate. We can assist you with these matters while understanding the emotional dynamics.
After the death of a loved one, one of the most difficult issues survivors face is dealing with the loved one’s estate. In Texas, there are a variety of procedures for handling the estate of person who has passed away. For example, an estate consisting of only non-probate assets does not need to be probated and an estate with few assets can be handled without a full probate administration.
What is the the Probate Process
The probate process usually begins with a will. Without a will, probate can drag on and leave your loved ones waiting for their inheritance.
Probate usually includes:
- Proving that the will is valid
- Identifying and cataloging the property
- Appraising the property
- Paying debts and taxes on the estate
- Distributing the property to the beneficiaries according to the will
- Naming an executor and his/her duties.
The probate process usually begins with the executor filing the papers with the probate court. When the will is proven valid, a list of the property and the various debts is given to the court. An official notification of death is sent to family and any beneficiaries. It can takes months, maybe even years for probate to move forward; it’s important to prepare thoroughly for probate to move forward properly.
The Executor’s Duties
The executor has an important role in probate. He/she is trusted with protecting and managing your property after your demise. An executor is a trusted individual who handles the settlement of your estate in the manner that you have laid out. Most of the executor’s duties are described by the will, but they will vary according to your wishes and to the rules of the court.
Some of the executor’s duties are:
- Deciding when and if probate is necessary
- Creating and inventory of assets and debts
- Managing the details of partnerships and other existing agreements
- Providing tax information of the estate to the government or to a qualified tax attorney
- Understanding and disposing of debts against the estate
- Dealing with insurance companies, including sending a death certificate to facilitate payments to the beneficiaries.
- Making any arrangements necessary for minor children
- Appearing in court as a representative in court proceedings whenever necessary
- Filing the will with probate court.
Additionally, the executor has a fiduciary duty the estate. He must communicate properly with the beneficiaries and may not mismanage the assets of the estate. In other words, the executor cannot buy, sell or make a profit off your assets. This is known as self-dealing.
What happens if you don’t have a will?
If you don’t have a will when you die, you are considered to have died intestate. In this case, the state takes responsibility for dividing up your property among your descendants. Every state has different laws, but for the most part, the property will go to family members. It all depends on whether you are married, have children and what kind of assets you leave behind. The courts follow the rule of intestate succession to decide who gets your property. This is set up according to the relationship they have with the deceased and it also varies state to state.
There are numerous ways to probate an intestate estate, but it will definitely take more time and probably more money than if you had a will and a detailed estate plan. If there is no executor, then the court will appoint one. The various potential heirs need to be notified by a notice of application. The court will use its own judgement to decide who inherits the estate, but it will take time to sort out the debts, assets and other details of the estate.