When a loved one passes away, the probate process usually will be necessary regardless of whether the person died with or without a will. In Texas, the probate process can be extremely complicated. As the Texas State Law Library explains, although some Texas probate courts allow individuals to represent themselves when they are executing a will, it is almost always beneficial to have an experienced Dallas probate attorney on your side throughout this complex process. Even with an attorney to represent you, it is a good idea to understand the most common steps in the probate process.
While the Texas Estates Code governs the probate process in Texas, there are common elements to the probate process from state to state.
Determine Whether the Decedent Died With a Will
Typically, the first step in the probate process is determining whether you will need to go through probate at all. In Texas, this means first determining whether the deceased died with a last will and testament, or whether the deceased died without a will (known as dying intestate). In both situations, probate can be necessary. If the deceased died with a will but did not provide another way for property to be transferred, then property will be distributed through probate. If the deceased died intestate, probate likely will be necessary.
Verify Authenticity of the Will and Identify Executor
Typically, the next step in the probate process is for the probate court to verify the authenticity of the will and to appoint the executor named in the will. There are a variety of requirements in Texas for a will to be valid, and the probate court will determine whether those requirements have been met. Once the will has been verified as authentic and the executorâ€”the person who will carry out the deceasedâ€™s willâ€”has been appointed, the process can continue.
Identify the Assets and Liabilities of the Deceased
As an article in The Balance explains, the next step in most probate processes is identifying the assets and liabilities of the deceased. The executor completes this task. Sometimes the deceasedâ€™s assets and liabilities are obvious and clear cut, but sometimes the executor will need to go through documents and other paperwork to determine what assets and liabilities were owned by the deceased. Sometimes assets are tangible, such as real estate, while in other situations assets are intangible, such as ownership in certain stock.
Notify and Pay Creditors
Before the deceasedâ€™s property can be distributed according to the terms outlined in the will, the executor must notify the deceasedâ€™s creditors about the death and must pay any of the deceasedâ€™s remaining debts from the estate. The executor usually is responsible for filing the deceasedâ€™s final income tax returns and determining estate taxes.
Distribute Property to Heirs
Once creditors have been paid and all debts of the estate have been handled, the executor usually can distribute property to heirs according to the terms of the will.
Contact a Probate Lawyer in Dallas
The steps above are some of the most typical in the average probate process. Depending upon the specific facts of your case, probate may require additional steps under Texas law. An experienced Dallas probate attorney can assist you. Contact the Law Offices of Brian Hill PLLC for more information.