The probate process exists to ensure that a decedent’s heirs receive the property that they deserve. Usually, this involves the probate court’s authentication of a will and an executor fulfilling their role under the law.
While state law determines which steps a probate court must follow, the probate process in Houston is unique for each case. This is because every will nominates a different executor and names different people as heirs. In addition, those heirs may contest the language of a will or argue that the will is invalid on its face.
As a result, it can be helpful to hire an experienced attorney to guide you through the probate process in Houston. Hegwood Law Group can help executors to fulfill their obligations under the law, work with heirs to ensure that they receive their fair share under a will or take the lead in contesting a will in open court.
When Does Probate Begin?
Probate is a natural process that occurs after a person’s death. The role of probate is to ensure that a decedent’s wishes become a reality concerning the distribution of their property. In addition, probate allows debtors to demand the fulfillment of the decedent’s debts.
Probate begins when an authorized party asks the probate court to initiate proceedings. According to Texas Estates Code § 256.003, probate must start no more than four years after the decedent’s death. Furthermore, only certain people can ask that a court begin this process. TX Estates Code § 256.051 says that an executor named in a will, or any other interested party, are the two primary people who can file a petition with the court. An interested party is an heir named in the will or a person who might stand to inherit, should a will not exist.
These parties must submit a formal application for the probate of a will. This application must include:
- Identifying information concerning the applicant
- The testator’s name, last address, and place of death
- A statement concerning the testator’s property
- Information concerning the will and witnesses to the signing
A seasoned lawyer could provide more information about the process of opening probate in Houston.
What to Expect During Probate
Probate occurs in three main phases. The first concerns the authentication of the will. The law assumes a will to be valid if it contains the testator’s signature as well as that of two witnesses. However, any interested party may contest a will through allegations that the will is a forgery or was the product of undue influence.
The second phase involves the authorization of an executor of the estate. A will may nominate an executor, or the court may appoint another party. The executor will receive letters testamentary that allow them to take temporary control of estate assets, open bank accounts, and distribute property to heirs.
The final phase concerns the actions of the executor. These people must submit regular updates to the court about how they have paid the decedent’s debts and handled the estate property. The executor must then distribute the remaining assets to the proper heirs. Once a Houston court is satisfied that these processes have concluded, it can end probate.
Call a Houston Attorney for Help During the Probate Process
The probate process in Houston can be confusing and time-consuming without guidance from a well-practiced attorney. Our team at Hegwood Law Group are well-versed in this process and can use our knowledge to help your family move through probate in a timely manner. Call today to learn more about how our team can help you.