Depending on the county where a testator, or the person who wrote the will, lived at the time of his death, Texas courts sometimes require that the executor of the will must be represented by an attorney. The Statutory Probate Court oversees the process if the testator lived in a metropolitan area; in rural areas, the Constitutional County Court presides over probate. The probate process can be simple or complex depending on the size and nature of the estate.
Submit the will to the clerk of the appropriate court along with a completed application for probate. The application asks for the date, time and place of the testator’s death, a description of his property, the names of any children born after the will was written, and whether or not he was ever divorced. After this is accomplished, there is a two-week waiting period while the clerk posts a notice at the courthouse that you have applied for probate. The court also decides during this time if the will is valid and if it actually requires probate. Anyone objecting to the will or to your appointment as executor must notify the court within this two-week period.
Read More: Requirement to File a Will After Death in Texas
Attend a court hearing when the waiting period has expired. The date and time are scheduled when the clerk posts the notice at the courthouse. If no one has objected and the judge feels that you are qualified for the job, he approves your appointment as executor at this hearing and enters a court order that allows you to act on the estate’s behalf.
Make an inventory of all assets owned by the testator that must pass through the probate process. This is anything that does not go directly to a named beneficiary, such as some life insurance policies, retirement benefits and real estate. File the inventory with the court within the next 90 days.
Find out who, if anyone, the testator owed money to. Publish a notice in the newspaper alerting them, as well as any creditors that you don’t know about, that they have a limited period of time during which to make a claim against the estate for the debt owed to them. The notice should include your name and address, or the contact information for the estate’s attorney if you have hired one. As you receive claims, you must either accept and pay them or reject them. You must also file and pay any taxes due for the estate and individually for the testator at this time.
Prepare and submit to the court an accounting of all debts, taxes and expenses you have paid on behalf of the estate, along with a request to distribute the remaining assets to the will’s beneficiaries. The court then assigns a date for a second hearing and you must mail notice of this date to the beneficiaries, heirs and creditors at least 15 days in advance.
Attend the second court hearing where the judge signs an order allowing you to distribute the bequests to the beneficiaries under the terms of the will if all your paperwork is in order. After the hearing, you can disburse the remainder of the estate to the beneficiaries and file a declaration for final discharge with the court. When the court receives it, probate is closed.
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.