Probate is the process of collecting and transferring title of an individual’s assets following his or her death, as well as settling debts owed by the estate. In Texas, the probate process can range from relatively straightforward to more complicated, depending on whether the individual left a Will, the contents of the Will, and the extent of the assets and debts of the estate. Having a properly drafted Will allows you to transfer your assets following your death to an individual or individuals of your choice. Without a Will, state law determines who will receive your property upon your death. Moreover, without a properly drafted Will, the probate process can be significantly more costly, difficult, and time consuming.
The probate process in Texas is among the most straightforward in the nation. With a properly drafted Will, probate in Texas may require very little court oversight relative to other states.
Your executor is responsible for carrying out your wishes as specified in your Will. An executor’s responsibilities include collecting and protecting the assets in your estate, paying off debts and taxes owed by your estate, and then distributing the assets in accordance with your Will. Under Texas law, an executor has the responsibility to manage and care for the estate property as a prudent person would care for his own property.
Unlike most other states, Texas allows you to designate your executor to serve as an “independent executor,” meaning with minimal court supervision. Having an independent executor can save your estate a significant amount of money and expedite the probate process.
You should appoint a person you trust and who is willing and capable to serve. Remember, if you appoint a spouse, family member, or friend, he or she will also be grieving. You should only appoint someone who you trust to handle your assets and the responsibility of administering your estate during what will be a difficult time. It is also important to name at least one alternate executor in case your executor is unwilling or unable to serve.
To die intestate, means to die without a Will.
When a person dies without a Will, Texas law determines who will receive the deceased individual’s assets. Probate options when there is no Will include:
Small Estate Affidavit
Determination of Heirship
Court Created Independent Administration
Affidavit of Heirship
Various circumstances, including the size of the estate and the amount of debt owed by the estate, will determine which of the above is the best probate option.
A handwritten Will, also known as a holographic Will, may be valid if it is signed and written entirely in the handwriting of the deceased individual.
If you have additional questions about Wills or the probate process in Texas, feel free to contact our office.