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Taking The Stress Out Of Probate

When a person dies, Texas law dictates who receives their property.  If a person has a valid Will or Trust, then the law says the deceased person's property passes to the people or charities named in the Will or Trust.  If a person dies without a Will or Trust, the Texas Estates Code controls the distribution of the person's property. Unless the deceased had a plan to avoid probate, then the person's estate (all of the things and real estate he or she left behind) usually will go through a process called "Probate."

What is Probate?

Probate is the process by which a deceased person's debts are paid, and his or her property is identified, valued, and distributed to the person named in a Will or to the heirs dictated by law. Probate is a court process that is overseen by a judge and administered by the personal representative of the estate, known as the estate "executor" if the decedent died with a will, or "administrator" if the decedent died without a will. 

Texas offers a few options for going through the probate process. The most common is independent administration. With an independent administration, the executor does not need to post a bond. The executor also has greater freedom to take many steps toward settling the estate without getting court permission first. These steps include actions such as paying debts of the estate, selling estate property, and distributing property to people that a will says should receive it. 

Less often, probate estates go through dependent administration. If a person dies without a Will, this is often the only option available. This process requires greater supervision by the probate court. In a dependent administration, the administrator (as to an executor named in a Will) must post a bond, ensuring that he or she will properly carry out duties. The estate must remain open for a minimum of six months, and court permission must be obtained before taking most actions, including the sale of estate property or payment of estate expenses or debts. In a dependent administration, the administrator must make regular accountings to the probate court, which provides transparency about the executor's actions to the court and the estate's heirs. 

In addition to these types of formal administration, there are other options for the transfer of property if the estate is small and uncomplicated. You can learn more about the probate process here.  

 

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