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Steps for Probating a Will in Texas

  • Wade Christiansen
  • Sun, 10/08/2017 - 11:43pm

When a family member dies, families are often confused and worried about the proper disposition of the deceased's property.  Well-meaning friends frequently try to advise the family on what to do, but are often mistaken about the proper steps.  In reality, one of the most important things surviving family members can do is consult with an experienced probate attorney to get sound advice on exactly what to do.  Today's blog post will outline the basic steps needed for an unconsted probate of a Last Will and Testament.

The first step is to locate the original Will and have an experienced probate attorney review it.  Having the original document is important, although if the original has been lost, a copy may be used in some circumstances.  The wording of the Will is critical to the proper legal steps to be taken.  Generally, if the Will was drafted by a competent attorney, it will satisfy the legal requirements necessary for smooth and simple probate process.

Second, the attorney will prepare an Application, which is a request to the Court to admit the Will to probate, appoint the Executor, and authorize the letters of administration.  The completed Application is then signed by the proposed Executor and the attorney, and is filed with the county clerk in the proper county.

Third, proper notification of the application is made by posting. 

Fourth, the Applicant and the Applicant's attorney appear for a scheduled hearing for probate, generally within a few weeks after the filing of the Application.  At the hearing, the Judge listens to brief testimony by the Applicant to support the application.  If the Court finds the evidence sufficient, the Court admits the Will to probate, appoints an Executor and authorizes the issuance of Letters Testamentary.    

Fifth, the county clerk issues the Letters Testamentary, which directly authorize the Executor to take control of the estate property and transact the business of the estate, i.e. paying any debts owed and distributing the property to the designated beneficiaries.  

Sixth, the Executor fulfills the terms of the Will, paying the debts and distributing the assetts to the individuals or entities named as beneficiaries in the manner designated in the Will.  

Seventh, the attorney and the Executor prepare an Inventory that identifies the assetts of the estate and the approximate fair market value of the property.  This Inventory is then filed with the clerk along with a proposed Order.  Once the Judge signs the proposed Order, and all property has been distributed in accordance with the terms of the Will, the estate is considered closed. 

Understanding the probate process, and then following through to make sure all required legal steps are timely taken, will avoid legal complications later.  Consulting with a trained probate attorney is a critical first step in the process.  Christiansen Law Firm has extensive experience handling probate matters.  To arrange a consultation with an experienced probate attorney, contact the Houston or San Antonio offices of Christiansen Law Firm.

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