When a family member dies, important legal steps must be taken to protect and transfer estate assets. These steps are greatly simplified if the family member executed a Last Willa nd Testament. This important document dictates who will receive the property and who will accomplish the transfer. Gaining authority to transact the business of the estate is known as "probate". Today's article will summarize the steps of the probate process for estates with a valid Last Will and Testament.
Analyzing the Last Will and Testament
A qualified probate attorney should review the Will to make sure it meets the legal requirements for admission to probate. If one or more of the legal requirements are not satisfied, the attorney can often overcome these legal hurdles without much delay or difficulty.
Filing an Application to Probate Will and For Issuance of Letters Testamentary
An Application should be filed with the County Clerk's office, typically in the county where the Decedent lived at the time of death. The original Will is then submitted to the county clerk's office.
Notification and Scheduling
After the Application has been filed, the clerk issues a notice that is posted at the courthouse. After a couple of weeks, the attorney may then schedule a hearing.
Preparing the Documents
Prior to the hearing date, the attorney will draft a proposed Order that admits the Will to probate and appoints an Executor to administer the estate. The Applicant will review and sign this important document. This document is filed with the county clerk's office in advance of the hearing.
Attending the Hearing
The Applicant will have to testify briefly at the hearing, by responding to simple questions asked by the attorney. The answers to these questions establish the legal requirements for the Judge to admit the Will to probate and appoint the Applicant as Independent Executor. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Judge will order that the Will be admitted, and appoint the Executor to administer the estate independently of Court supervision. The newly appointed Independent Executor then takes an oath, and the clerk issues Letters Testamentary.
Preparing the Inventory
Within 90 days of issuance of the letters testamentary, the Executor must file an Inventory with the clerk. This important document identifies all estate asset, along with estimated values. The Judge then approves the Inventory and closes the file.
Administering the Estate
The Letters Testamentary give the Executor legal authority to administer the estate. For example, the Executor may transfer property deeds and vehicle titles to the beneficiaries listed in the Will. The Executor has a duty to transfer the assets in accordance with the terms of the Will. Failure to do so can result in legal action against the Executor. Therefore, it is critical that the Executor fully understand the proper distribution of the estate. The attorney will generally handle any post-probate notices to creditors.
If you've lost a family member, you should immediately seek the assistance of a qualified probate attorney. The probate attorneys of Christiansen Law Firm have significant experience assisting families with the probate process. An experienced probate attorney at Christiansen Law Firm can guide you through the probate process. Contact Christiansen Law Firm in Houston or San Antonio to arrange a free consultation.