Probate is the legal process through which an individual’s estate is managed and administered after their death. If the person leaves behind a Last Will & Testament, a probate will be needed to verify that the will is valid and to appoint an executor If you die without a Will then the process becomes more cumbersome with regards to both time and money.
What Is the Probate’s Job?
If you die without a will, the probate court will refer to the intestate laws to distribute your property and other belongings. If you die without a Will then the process becomes more cumbersome with regards to both time and money.
If you die with a Will, then your Will shall be probated. The executor is a personal representative who is responsible for carrying out the instructions in your will. If all the relevant parties agree with the will and it goes uncontested, the probate court will issue Letters of Testamentary. If someone contests the Will, then the court will get further involved and this will increase the expenses even further.
What Are the Executor’s Responsibilities?
Here is a step by step guide on how your executor goes about the probate process:
Your executor can’t pick up your will and start distributing the inheritances and heirlooms immediately. They need to ‘prove’ the will first. The first step is to file a petition with the probate court and open the process. No distributions can be made yet.
After the will has been approved, the executor will send out notices to the creditors and potential beneficiaries. These include the people named in your will and the ‘next of kin’ (your close relatives). The executor will post a notice to creditors, typically in a local newspaper. The executor will also go through your financial documents to attempt to find out about your debts and creditors..
The next step is to evaluate the total value of all the assets as of the date of death. For this, they might need to make multiple visits to the bank, brokers, stock market experts, and other professional appraisers. The executor then makes multiple copies of the inventory valuation and sends them to the judge and beneficiaries.
The last step is to distribute the assets and close the estate. If one of the beneficiaries is a minor, their inheritance is typically held for them in an UTMA account until they’re 18 or 21. The executor should use estate assets to pay your taxes and any outstanding debt. They’ll probably hire a CPA to do any tax filings. They’ll also close any retirement accounts and brokerage accounts that you own.
In many counties in Texas, the process usually takes probably 2 to 6 months, but that varies with the county, time of year, and budgets of our judicial system.
Mike Massey Law strives to make the probate process easier for individuals and their executors alike. If you’re based in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio, our estate planning attorneys can help you out. Book your free consultation today.