When a person passes away, their estate—the property that they owned at the time of their death—goes into something known as probate. The probate court determines how these assets are to be distributed after the end of a person’s life. Early on in the process, the court will select someone to administer the probate process.
If you are tasked with administering an estate, a skilled attorney could help you discharge your duties as required under the law. Doing so could avoid any unnecessary costs and delays during the probate process. You could benefit from discussing your options with a Houston estate administration lawyer immediately.
Testate vs. Intestate Estates
Not all estates are created equal. In general, there are two types of estates that a probate court could hear: testate and intestate estates. An estate is considered testate if the person died with a viable last will and testament. In these cases, the language of the last will and testament will determine how assets are divided.
Dying intestate means passing away without a last will and testament. In these cases, there is no overriding document to guide how the court should divvy up a decedent’s assets. Instead, the court will follow state law to determine which heirs recover assets from the estate.
While the underlying purpose of both types of estates is the same, the administration process can be very different depending on whether or not there is a will in place. An estate administration attorney in Houston could help ensure the appropriate process is followed with either type of estate.
How an Attorney Could Help Administer an Estate
There are a number of important steps in the administration process, regardless of whether the decedent died with or without a will. While many of these steps are the same, there are certain duties of a trustee that are exclusive to testate estates. An estate administration attorney in Houston could provide helpful insight on these differences.
The primary difference involves admitting a will to probate and handling any challenges that stem from the will. If there is a valid and viable last will and testament in place, dealing with challenges from beneficiaries is one of the possible roles of an administrator. For obvious reasons, this is not an issue when a decedent dies intestate.
No matter the type of estate, the administrator must gather the estate’s assets and determine its liabilities. Before the estate can submit anything to the beneficiaries, it must first pay down any debts, address any challenges from creditors, and pay off any taxes that are owed. This process can be time-consuming, especially if creditors raise a challenge.
Once all debts are paid and all challenges are addressed, the next step involves distributing assets to the beneficiaries. When a decedent passes away with a will, that document will govern which beneficiary receives what specific asset. Alternatively, something known as intestate succession will determine which heirs recover from the estate if there is not a will in place.
Talk to a Houston Estate Administration Attorney Today
Administering an estate can be a challenge, especially for anyone still grieving over the loss of a loved one. Given these challenges, it is often better to put the administration process into the hands of skilled legal counsel.
A Houston estate administration lawyer could help during this difficult time. Reach out today to get started.