Probate in Texas
Probate is the legal process that is used to settle the estate of a deceased person. It involves the distribution of a person's assets to their beneficiaries or heirs according to the terms of a will or, if there is no will, according to state law. Probate also includes the payment of debts and taxes owed by the estate.
In Texas, probate is usually handled by a court-appointed representative, called an executor or administrator. This person is most often named by the decedent in his or her Last Will and Testament and then appointed by the Judge overseeing the probate.
The executor or administrator is responsible for gathering the deceased person's assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries.
Probate can be a time-consuming and costly process, and it is typically necessary if the deceased person owned significant assets that need to be transferred to their heirs. However, not all assets are part of the probate process. Assets held in a trust, life insurance proceeds, jointly owned property or property to be transferred according to a filed Transfer-on-Death Deed.
It's important to note that the probate process can be complex and may involve legal proceedings. If you're the executor or administrator of an estate, we advise you to consult with an attorney to help you navigate the process and ensure that it is handled correctly.
Texans have Four Years to File for Probate
Texas courts don't require you to file to probate the estate of a loved one for four years. Rushing to probate may not be in the best interest of the heirs.
The Texas "timely billing" law requires health care service providers to send patient bills no later than the 11th month after services were provided. If the bill is not sent within the timeframe required by law, the health care service provider can not collect payment for certain charges. Depending on the expected bills of your loved one incurred during her or his year, it may be advisable to postpone filing for probate until the legal billing period has past.
There are several other reasons why it may be advisable to wait before filing for probate in Texas:
Estate Administration: In some cases, the estate may not be ready for probate immediately after the death of the decedent. This could be because the estate needs time to gather information, organize paperwork, or pay outstanding debts. Waiting to file for probate until the estate administration is complete can make the probate process smoother and more efficient.
Final Tax Returns: The estate may need to file final tax returns for the deceased person, and it may be beneficial to wait until those returns have been filed before starting the probate process. This can ensure that all tax obligations have been fulfilled and prevent any issues from arising during the probate process.
Inheritance Tax: Texas does not have an inheritance tax, but if the decedent lived in a state that does have an inheritance tax, it may be necessary to wait for that tax to be paid before filing for probate.
Estate Planning: In some cases, the deceased person may have had an estate plan in place that could impact the probate process. Waiting to file for probate until the estate plan has been reviewed can help ensure that the probate process
Avoiding Contested Probate: If there is potential for disputes or disagreements among the heirs or beneficiaries, it may be advisable to wait to file for probate until those issues can be resolved. Starting the probate process before disputes are settled can lead to a contested probate, which can be more time-consuming and costly than an uncontested probate.
It's important to consider these factors and others when deciding when to file for probate in Texas, as waiting to file could have advantages for the estate and its beneficiaries. Talk with one of our probate attorneys before making a decision.