Probate & Estate Planning Lawyers in Texas
Are you trying to plan out the future of your estate? The process of estate planning can be rigorous, difficult and confusing if you do not have a legal professional who can act as your guide. Estate planning involves actions like creating wills and trusts, or determining beneficiaries of your assets in the event of your death. Oftentimes there is a lot of paperwork for each step in the process, and it is easy to get confused if you don't have an expert on your side. If you are an heir or an appointed executor of a will, you may be especially worried that you will make a mistake, because it could cost personal funds.
There are many taxes, court fees, penalties, and other costs that you may be able to avoid if you are know how to approach the probate process. Whether you are inheriting money or are planning to give it away upon your death, a trustworthy attorney can be an invaluable resource. An informed lawyer will be able to notify you of new laws and taxes that may apply to your situation and may even know legal loopholes which can help you to preserve portions of the estate.
The courts may handle wills differently from trusts, so it is important that you know the best option for your specific situation. If you are dealing with an intestate probate cases, it may even become more complicated and emotional as family members have disputes over the estate. If you're going to be leaving your family, friends, or charities an estate in the future, then you need to make sure all necessary provisions have been made.
Texas Probate Laws
In the state of Texas, there are three different types of probate: dependent administration, independent administration, and muniment of title. Since dependent administration is the default rule for probate, most cases fall under this category. Under this type of estate administration, the executor is dependent on the court to make any decisions regarding the estate, including selling items, paying debts, and transferring property. The executor is responsible for filing an account of all expenses and income that the estate received during each year the probate process continues. This allows the executor to have accountability with the court, and provides the decedent and beneficiaries with protection. Since all actions have to be approved, this type of administration may be extremely time consuming and expensive.
If all of the beneficiaries agree that the executor does not need to go through the courts, then they can pursue the second type of probate, independent administration. The requirements for court activity are much less strenuous under this process. The executor only has to satisfy court requirements and fulfill any responsibilities to the beneficiaries and heirs of the decedent. While this type of administration is usually less costly and time-consuming, it provides less protection for the heirs, therefore, 100% of the heirs must agree to independent administration.
The last type of probate is very unique to Texas, known as Muniment of Title. This type of probate was meant to streamline the probate process for estates that have a will and don't owe any debts. The decedent also must have passed away less than 4 years ago. The Muniment of Title asks for courts to find the will valid and expresses that no further action is need than is stated in the will. The judge simply signs the title so all assets can be transferred. A probate lawyer can help you determine which of these options is available in your case.
Probate Process in Texas
To initiate the probate process, you must file an application with a probate court in Texas. After the application is officially filed, the court will post a notice so that anybody who wants to contest the will can do so. The court will require that you wait two weeks before the case will be heard. Once this period passes, a hearing will be conducted by a judge to open the administration of the estate or recognize the validity of the will. In some cases, the courts may require that you get an attorney to represent you, especially if you are appointed to be the executor. The courts what to make sure that the executor is fully advised of all duties and responsibilities, which a licensed attorney should know.
If you are looking for a probate or estate planning attorney in your area, please click on your county below.