Just as a family will go through a loved one's home to identify and distribute personal belongings, the family must also go through a similar process through the loved one's "financial house." The process where financial assets and other legal matters are arranged is called probate. Simply put, probate is the process in which the court appoints someone, called a personal representative, to identify and collect all the property owned by the deceased. The property owned by the deceased is called his estate. Second, the representative pays any debts that may exist. Finally, the representative distributes the assets to those who are entitled to them either under the law or a will.
1) Probate Law in Texas
Probate in Texas is generally not difficult. Because of its simplicity, Texas probate law is regarded as a model for other states. Texas provides many tools that allow us to choose the probate method which best suits your needs. Some of the more simple probate processes can take as little as a month to complete. The most common probate method, in which the estate is administered independently of court supervision, generally takes between three and nine months to complete. Complex estates can take much longer to resolve.
2) What happens while the "process" is occurring?
Often families are concerned about whether they will have access to the property in the estate during the probate process. Generally, a surviving spouse and minor children can have prompt access to enough assets to support the widow or minor children for a period of one year. Similarly, as long as the mortgage is not in default, a widow or minor children will be able to continue to live in the house.
In contrast to surviving spouses and minor children, the law presumes that adult children possess independent means of support. Therefore, they are only permitted to receive distributions in the due course of probate. Even then, distributions can sometimes be made throughout probate, provided the assets exceed the debt; it is seldom that distributions are delayed for a prolonged time.
3) What does probate cost?
Finally, people are concerned about the cost of probate. We cannot guarantee what the cost of the probate of your loved one's estate will be. Each estate is different and as they are different, the costs and fees associated with them can vary dramatically. With that in mind, we can say that, generally, a full probate of a modest to small estate costs between $1,500 and $2,000. Your individual case may be less, or it may be far more. However, when an estate costs more to probate, the assets in the estate are sufficient to bear the fees.
4) Is probate necessary?
During such a difficult time, it is often tempting to ignore the process and leave it for your children to worry about after your death. We understand the uncertainty and the fear involved in probate; we see it frequently with our clients. Allow us to encourage you to probate the estate anyway. If you do not do it, it will be left for someone else to do; it does not go away. If delayed, the information, people, and memories necessary to complete the process are often unavailable. As a result, the process grows more complex, time consuming, and expensive.