Need Help with the Probate Process in Texas?
Austin Probate Attorney Assists Executors and Family Members
Dealing with the grief of losing a loved one is difficult. While you cope with the emotional challenges of someone’s passing, it can be difficult to handle the legal challenges of probate as well. However, you do not have to navigate the complex and confusing Texas probate system on your own. An Austin probate attorney can help you carry out your loved one’s wishes while also protecting your rights as a beneficiary. A lawyer can assist with executing a will or trust, inventorying assets, settling an estate’s outstanding debts, transfer titles, and answer any questions you may have. While you take the time you need to grieve, a probate attorney can see to it that all necessary filings are complete and accurate.
At Sheehan Law, PLLC, we are always mindful of your needs, especially during extremely difficult and emotionally trying times. This is especially true when one your family member or loved one passes away. During these times, an Austin probate attorney from our law firm can work to lessen the burdens you face, especially with respect to legal matters. Families should have quality time to grieve and focus on each other rather than try to navigate the Texas probate system on their own. We want you to have confidence in our ability to navigate the probate system with efficiency and proficiency to achieve the best possible outcome under the circumstances.
What Is the Probate Process?
While estate planning occurs prior to one’s death (e.g., executing wills, trusts, advanced directives, etc.), probate and estate administration occurs after an individual passes away. Essentially, probate is the process of distributing or transferring the assets and debts of the decedent after death. The process is also referred to as the “administration of an estate,” and is sometimes called “going through probate.” The probate process accomplishes the following objectives:
- Determines the decedent’s legal heirs.
- Establishes the validity of the decedent’s will (if one exists).
- Identifies or inventories the assets and debts that comprise the decedent’s estate.
- Pays necessary debts.
- Distributes the estate assets to those entitled to receive it, called the beneficiaries.
The probate process is necessary any time a person leaves behind any assets that require a transfer of title to some other person or entity. For example, a vehicle registered solely in the decedent’s name must be transferred to someone else. There are exceptions in certain cases, however. Trusts, for example, can be administered without going through probate.
How Do I Administer a Loved One’s Estate?
Probate also requires court intervention. However, this does not necessarily mean that there is a dispute over a will or some other adversarial situation. Texas probate law simply requires court oversight and involvement in all situations where any of a decedent’s assets are not distributed via a valid Trust Agreement. The level of the court’s involvement depends on whether the probate process is “independent” or “dependent.”
Fortunately, the State of Texas allows for “independent administration” of the majority of estates. In an independent administration, the appointed independent executor manages the decedent’s assets, pays any outstanding debts, files required tax returns and various court documents, and distributes the assets of the estate with little to no judicial oversight. Usually, you only need court approval to start the probate process, and then to review the inventoried assets. You and your probate attorney can handle everything else independently, saving time and money.
In a dependent administration, the probate judge must approve every detail of the estate administration. This includes posting bond, hiring appraisers, inventorying assets, selling and distributing assets, and formally ending the probate process. Usually, dependent administration of an estate only occurs if the will or estate plan is contested.
At Sheehan Law, PLLC, our probate attorneys help clients navigate this process and provide comprehensive guidance every step of the way. We assist executors and family members get through the complex legal maze that is probate. We have experience with issues such as:
- Small Estates Affidavits in Texas
- Ancillary Administration in Texas
- Muniment of Title Probate in Texas
- Temporary Administration in Texas
- Informal Family Settlements in Texas Probate
- Disqualifying or Removing an Independent Executor in Texas
What Happens During Contested Probate Proceedings?
Probate is usually a relatively routine procedure, especially if the deceased left a proper will. However, sometimes rival heirs may object to the terms of a will or some other aspect of probate. This is known as a “contested probate” and it makes the process more complicated. When this happens, the parties may meet in mediation to try to settle the dispute, or the court may intervene. In some cases, an extensive investigation is necessary; contested probate cases may even go to trial.
In other cases, there may be no challenges to the distribution of an estate, but it may be complicated for a number of other reasons. For example, an individual may pass away without leaving behind a valid will. If so, then Texas law dictates that certain proceedings must take place in order to declare heirship. Sometimes, this may even require an attorney to conduct genealogy research to find the rightful beneficiaries.
Additionally, all too often, “general” practitioners include estate planning as part of their repertoire of services. This is unfortunate and only serves as a disservice to those individuals who seek competent, thorough estate planning advice. Even worse, if an inexperienced attorney makes a mistake or omission when drafting estate planning documents often, no one discovers the oversight until the client passes away. At that point, those left behind have no choice but to try to right the wrong during probate.
State and federal probate laws and regulations change regularly; it is important to hire an attorney familiar with the current law and who has ample experience with the Texas probate system. Austin probate attorney Farren Sheehan can offer you advice on even the most complex contested probate questions.
Need Help Administering a Will? Contact an Austin Probate Attorney
At Sheehan Law, PLLC, we help you navigate the complex probate process and provide comprehensive guidance every step of the way. Austin probate lawyer Farren Sheehan handles a wide range of probate issues in Travis County, from simple and highly complicated procedures. This includes contested probates and litigation involving decedents’ estates. If you recently lost a loved one and do not know where to start, then call us at (512) 251-4553 or make an appointment online. We can help you work through probate laws with respect and urgency.