Anderson Pfeiffer, PC, has the credentials, experience and expertise to counsel you in the important matters relating to probate.
As experienced Texas probate lawyers, we are prepared to handle issues ranging from the routine probate of a will to complicated litigation. Sometimes there is no will, or a will may be contested. In those situations, we are experienced in handling that matter in the trial courts and in the appellate courts.
What is probate?
Probate is the initiation of a legal process to settle a decedent’s estate. There are different types of probate proceedings depending on many factors, such as whether there is a will, whether an administration is necessary, whether there are debts in the estate, etc. This process may include the appointment of a personal representative (called an Executor or Administrator), whose job it is to administer the estate and ultimately distribute the property to the heirs or beneficiaries.
What is a personal representative?
A personal representative of an estate is sometimes appointed by a court to be the person responsible for and with legal authority to administer the estate and ultimately distribute the property to the heirs or beneficiaries.
What does a personal representative do?
In Texas, once a personal representative has been appointed by a court, he/she must qualify. Qualification is accomplished by taking an oath and in some cases, posting a bond. Once qualified, the personal representative has the responsibility to collect, manage and protect assets of the estate. The personal representative will have 90 days to file with the court a verified Inventory, Appraisement and List of Claims of all of the estate’s real property located in the state of Texas and all of the estate’s personal property, wherever it may be located. The steps thereafter in administering the estate depend on whether the administration is a dependent administration or an independent administration, which means, with or without court supervision. This is determined by whether the decedent did or did not leave a valid Last Will and Testament, the terms of the decedent’s Will, whether there is a contest to the decedent’s Will, and/or the provisions of the court’s order of appointment. Regardless, the personal representative is charged with resolving all of the estate’s debts and taxes and addressing claims belonging to the estate. Once this has been done, the personal representative may then distribute the estate property to the heirs or beneficiaries of the estate either as instructed in the decedent’s Will or pursuant to the laws of descent and distribution.
What property is subject to probate?
Generally, all of the decedent’s real and personal property is subject to probate unless it is specifically set up during the decedent’s lifetime to not be subject to probate. For example, some property may pass to another person contractually, such as through a bank account or an insurance policy that names someone specifically as a beneficiary. In these type cases, the beneficiary is the owner of the property at the moment of the decedent’s death and that property is not subject to probate. Other examples of property not subject to probate are, without limitation, “payable on death” accounts, which may be set up on checking and savings accounts; accounts designated as “joint tenancy with right of survivorship,” “transfer on death” accounts, and certain trusts.
What do I do if a decedent owed me money?
A person who has a claim against a decedent’s estate is called a “Claimant.” A Claimant to a decedent’s estate under an independent administration may typically collect on his/her claim from the personal representative or may file suit if the personal representative disputes the claim. A Claimant to a decedent’s estate under a dependent administration, however, must submit a “claim against the estate” to the personal representative or clerk of the court and seek approval of the claim. If approved, the Claimant will be paid in the due course of administration, should funds be available. If the claim is not approved or is rejected by the personal representative, the Claimant must file suit within 90 days of the rejection to attempt to prove his claim and collect money, or the claim will forever be barred. The claims process can be complicated and there are deadlines involved, so you should talk to an attorney if you believe you have a claim against an estate.
How do I avoid probate?
More often than not, the probate of a decedent’s estate can be a simple process. Sometimes, however, the probate process can be difficult, time consuming and expensive, especially if the decedent passed without leaving a valid Will. Even if the decedent left a valid Will, the formal probate process may be avoided if there is no necessity to administer the estate, or by implementing one of the alternatives to the formal probate process. However, these options should be discussed with an attorney.
The information furnished is only general and not a substitute for personalized legal advice.