Probate Attorney in Missouri City, Texas
Contrary to what you may have seen on television, reading and processing a person’s will is often not as dramatic as you think. A legal will can typically end up in courts to undergo a legal process known as probate. Probate is a procedure used to certify a person’s death and then oversee the distribution of the decedent’s assets to family members, creditors, or both.
If a person dies without a will, this is known as dying intestate. When someone dies intestate, their estate will likely end up in probate court unless the estate is small enough to be resolved otherwise.
How is probate handled in Texas? Are there steps you can take to avoid the probate process, which — especially if contested — can prove costly in terms of time and money?
Suppose you’re facing the prospect of probate. In that case, you should seek the guidance of an experienced estate planning lawyer in Missouri City to facilitate the process and help resolve any issues that arise. K.E. Bradley, Attorney & Counselor at Law, is an experienced firm with the sole mission of getting you the representation that you deserve. We will work diligently to help you through this difficult and trying time so that your or your loved one’s last wishes are executed thoroughly.
How is Probate Administered in Texas?
While all wills and the estates of those who die intestate (without a will) must generally go through probate in Texas, most probate proceedings are conducted with “independent administration.”
Independent administration gives the executor named in the will the power to make decisions and administer the estate without obtaining the court’s approval every step of the way. A properly executed will can include a provision requesting independent administration. Otherwise, if all beneficiaries agree, the executor can request independent administration with an estate planning lawyer when probate begins.
Under this type of proceeding, the executor does not have to post a bond to cover the estate’s assets. At the same time, probate finishes the distribution process involving creditors and beneficiaries.
Generally speaking, probate requires a Missouri City estate planning lawyer and the client to take inventory of all the assets of the decedent’s estate. Afterward, they may post a notice to creditors in local media, then sell and pay creditors before distributing the remaining assets to the named beneficiaries. Independent administration allows this to be done almost solely at the direction of the executor, who is entitled to a five percent commission of the money the estate receives from selling assets and paying creditors. Cash at the time of death is not subject to commission.
At the other end of the spectrum is dependent administration, which often occurs when the family members object to independent administration or dispute the will. A bond will have to be posted by the estate planning lawyer, and all decisions will have to be reviewed and approved by the probate court. Dependent administration can often cause proceedings to drag out for a longer period of time.
If a person dies without a will, the probate court will decide upon the distribution of post-creditor assets according to a hierarchy of survivors, starting with any surviving spouse and children.
Other Means of Settling Estates in Texas
Probate court proceedings can be avoided if there is no will and the estate’s value is $75,000 or less. The people who inherit the assets can provide an affidavit or sworn statement to collect the property. However, there is a 30-day waiting period.
Similarly, “if the decedent’s estate, excluding any homestead, exempt property, and family allowance to the decedent’s surviving spouse, minor children, and incapacitated adult children, does not exceed the amount sufficient to pay the claims against the estate,” then the court may authorize the executor and their Missouri City estate planning lawyer to distribute the assets without going through regular probate.
Muniment of Title
There is also a process known as “muniment of title,” which can be used when there is a valid will, no unpaid debts except for real estate, and no Medicaid claim against the estate.
The person or representing estate planning lawyer filing the will with the probate court can request it to be treated as a muniment of title (muniment means evidence). If the court approves this request, the person making the request must file an affidavit within the court within six months certifying that the terms of the will have been carried out. There are no other probate proceedings required.
Assets Not Subject to Probate
Not everything must go through probate. Assets that can be transferred outside of probate include:
How to Avoid Probate with a Trust
Proper estate planning can help you avoid the entire probate process by executing an instrument known as a trust. Many different types of trusts can serve different needs and circumstances. Specifically, a living trust that names a trustee to oversee all of your assets and distribute them to beneficiaries upon your passing will enable your heirs to skirt the entire probate process.
Regarding trusts, you’ll need an experienced estate planning lawyer in Missouri City who can help you create the right trust that serves your needs. K.E. Bradley, Attorney & Counselor at Law, would be honored to meet with you to discuss how a trust, or combination of trusts. That way, you and your loved ones can still find peace of mind not only after your passing but also should certain circumstances leave you incapacitated or unable to make decisions for yourself.
Hire a Trusted Texate Probate Attorney
In most cases, probate can take anywhere from a few months up to two years. The longer it takes, the more the costs tend to rise. With the help of an experienced estate planning lawyer in Missouri City or surrounding areas, you can simplify the entire process, especially if disputes arise among the beneficiaries. When these disputes do come up, a court will often order the parties to undergo expensive mediation procedures. However, if you have an experienced attorney providing reliable legal guidance throughout the process, you can resolve any difficulties before they ever reach that stage.
An experienced estate planning lawyer is also helpful in guiding and assisting the executors in performing their duties. The executor can face many difficult situations and decisions. A lawyer’s helping hand can help the executor better understand the finer details of estate administration and help avoid any setbacks.
Our goal at K.E. Bradley, Attorney & Counselor at Law, is to help you and your family avoid any complications so that this difficult time can be spent with loved ones. If you’re facing the prospect of probate, don’t face these challenges alone.
Contact K.E. Bradley Today!
Our founder, Kendrick Bradley, has devoted his career to helping clients prepare for the future with reliable probate and estate planning lawyer services in Missouri City. If you or someone you know is facing probate proceedings, you can schedule an initial consultation immediately for legal assistance as soon as possible. And we are proud to serve clients throughout Missouri City, El Paso, Sugar Land, Katy, Friendswood, Pearland, and Fresno, Texas.