Welcome to the Kazi Law Firm! We are a boutique law firm steeped in Texas tradition personifying the warmth and congeniality consistent with southern hospitality. We believe in preserving integrity and professionalism with true Texan charm, staying true to our roots, while providing essential, affordable legal services to all. Located just north of Dallas, Texas in the rapidly growing suburb of Frisco; the Kazi Law Firm concentrates on contracts drafting and review, immigration law, will & estates, real estate law, landlord, tenant, mediation, and general business law needs.
As estate planning attorneys, we are often asked about the probate process in Texas. I believe it’s imperative to understand the process to fully grasp the gravity of the situation if you were to die intestate (without a Will) in Texas.
First, let’s define the word “estate” as it refers to the probate process. An estate is comprised of all of the assets owned by someone at the time of their death. For example, all that person’s cash, real estate, stocks, bonds, life insurance, retirement accounts, cars, jewelry, etc. Now, you’re probably wondering what the term “probate” means. Well, the probate of someone’s estate refers to the process by which a court recognizes that person’s death and authorizes the administration of that person’s estate. The probate process applies both when: someone dies leaving a Will (testate) or when someone dies without a Will (intestate).
Simply put, the probate process in Texas requires the following:
- All of that person’s property will be gathered
- Their debts paid
- The remaining assets distributed according to either the provisions of his or her Will, or
- If they died without a Will, then the property will be distributed according to Texas law regarding intestacy.
Starting the Probate Process
Initiating the probate process is fairly straightforward and easy in Texas. Whether or not the Decedent died with a Will, an application for probate will need to be filed in the proper Texas Probate Court. Once the Application has been filed, Texas probate law requires that you must wait approximately 2 weeks before you can have a hearing on the Probate Application for the Court to determine the necessity to open the Administration of the Estate and/or to recognize the Decedent’s Will as valid.
During this waiting period, the County Clerk posts a notice at the courthouse that an application has been filed for probate. This posting serves as notice to anyone who might want to contest the Will or administration that they have a certain number of days to do that. If they fail to file their contest within that period of time, the Court can move forward in opening the administration and/or recognizing the validity of the Will.
Once the waiting period has passed, a hearing will be conducted before the probate Judge. At that time, he will recognize that the Decedent has died, that the Court has jurisdiction of the case, that the person applying to be the Executor is qualified to serve, and that either the Decedent died without a Will or that the Will he left was valid.
Please keep in mind that the local rules of most of the Courts hearing probate cases in Texas require that a person applying to administer an estate or admit a Will to probate must be represented by an attorney. The Executor has important duties to all of the beneficiaries and heirs of the estate and thus, the Courts want to ensure that they are properly advised as to their obligations and duties as the Executor.
Next Steps in the Probate Process
The Texas Estates Code provides certain steps that must be followed when navigating the probate process. In addition to those requirements, some Courts will impose additional rules that may differ somewhat depending on the Court in which your case is heard. During the probate process, each of the following will occur:
- The Will is filed with the Court and is proved to be either valid or invalid.
- The Court appoints a person to be responsible for administering the Estate.
- A listing of the property belonging to the Decedent’s estate is reported to the Court.
- If the Decedent died without a Will, the Court will make a formal determination as to the identity of the Decedent’s heirs.
- Creditors owed money by the Decedent at the time of death are given the opportunity to file Claims and seek repayment
- The assets remaining after payment of debts and expenses are distributed to either a) the beneficiaries listed in the Will or b) the heirs determined by the Court, if there was no Will.
- If the family members of the Decedent engage in a fight over the assets of the estate, the Court will hear that dispute and resolve whatever issues may exist.
The Texas Probate Code requires that executors and administrators in any probate proceeding complete the following two requirements:
- Publish a Notice to the Creditors and
- File an Inventory of the Estate Assets
Notice to the Creditors
The Notice to Creditors is a notice published in a newspaper in the County in which the probate proceeding is pending. This notice simply informs any potential creditors of the Deceased that the probate proceeding has been opened. It also tells them the identity of the Executor and the address of their attorney, and it notifies the creditors that they must file a claim against the estate if they desire to be repaid for their outstanding debt. The Notice to Creditors is a routine matter that your attorney will prepare and file for you.
Inventory of the Estate Assets
The Inventory of the Estate Assets is a detailed listing of all of the assets that were owned by the Decedent as of the date of his or her death. This listing must be provided to the Court within 90 days after the Executor is appointed, and it informs the Court of those assets with which it should be concerned in the probate administration. The Inventory serves essentially as a report of the Executor’s work in identifying and gathering the assets of the estate.
The probate proceeding, although straightforward, can be daunting if you have never been through it before. After the death of a loved one is usually an emotionally charged time and it’s best to seek guidance from an experienced probate attorney to help guide you through the process.
I built my law practice on the premise of being a life raft in a sea of sharks. I want to be an advocate for those that have been wronged and are too intimidated to seek help. My firm is here to explore your options, guide you through your legal journey, and give you that safe space to ask questions! There’s no such thing as a stupid question…Only the ones you don’t ask. So, my question to my clients is not “do you have any questions?” But rather “what questions do you have?”
As always, the Kazi Law Firm is standing by to help you in your time of need. Don’t hesitate to contact us today. We specialize in real estate law, landlord-tenant disputes, immigration, and wills & estate planning. Family is at the core of our practice. Just as we treat our family with respect and understanding, we treat yours. Come join the Kazi Law Firm family today!
Why swim alone in shark-infested waters when you don’t need to?