It can be difficult to know which steps to take after a loved one passes away, and this Firm is here to assist families in determining how to administer your loved one’s Estate. Each client’s facts and circumstances will be evaluated to determine which probate procedure in Texas is the best option to pursue: Small Estate Affidavit; Muniment of Title; Heirship Determination without Administration; Independent Administration; or Dependent Administration.
Although you are not required to probate, the person possessing the original Will must file the Will with the Court Clerk. Failure to probate a will within four years of the decedent’s death reduces the probate options available and risks the named beneficiaries from receiving benefits of the estate plan.
The first step is to determine if there is a valid Will. If there is no Will, the estate may require a determination of heirship. The Texas Estates Code includes several statutes detailing the laws of intestacy. This is the process of identifying what family members will receive what share of the person’s real and personal property. However, if there is a valid Will, the Will controls who receives what asset(s) out of the person’s estate.
If there are no debts against the estate, except secured by real property, you may be able to probate the Will as a Muniment of Title. Although this is a much less time-consuming probate process and can be less expensive, this procedure is not ideal if the estate involves multiple homes, debts, stocks, bonds, or contentious family. An alternative is to receive Letters Testamentary and have an Executor appointed and qualified. Merely being named the executor in the Will does not make it official. A Court must ensure the person is qualified (not a felon, lives in Texas or has a resident agent, etc…) The Letters Testamentary issued by the Clerk will be accepted by all financial institutions. In contrast, a Muniment of Title order can confuse financial institutions not familiar with this alternative procedure.
As an Executor or Administrator of an estate, you have a fiduciary duty to the other beneficiaries. You must keep good records of everything you do on behalf of the Estate. Depending on the type of case, you may need to produce annual accountings to the Court in addition to the beneficiaries.