Do-It-Yourself Probate in Texas

By Beverly Bird
Probating a will yourself is time-consuming, detailed work.

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In Texas, probating a will yourself is an independent administration. Independent administration is only possible if the person who died stated in her will that her executor, the person she named to oversee probate, does not need court supervision. But even an independent estate involves some court intervention and occasional appearances before a judge.

Call the courthouse in the county where the deceased lived, to find out where you should file the will for probate. This is generally the Constitutional County Court in rural areas and the Statutory Probate Court in metropolitan areas of Texas.

Take the original copy of the will to the appropriate court. The clerk will give you an application to fill out, so you can open probate. Be prepared to provide certain information, such as where and when the deceased passed away, his marital status, the names of his children and a general list of his property. Check the box that indicates that this is an independent probate and file both the application and the will with the court.

Appear in court, so a probate judge can officially appoint you as executor and you can probate the will. This will be at least two weeks after you filed the probate application, because Texas has a waiting period during which the court posts a notice, either at the courthouse or in a newspaper, notifying the public that the will has been submitted for probate and giving everyone time to object to it, or to your appointment as executor. The date when you have to appear in court will be included in the notice.

Make a more comprehensive list of all the deceased’s property that is not going directly to a beneficiary, such as retirement benefits and insurance policies with named beneficiaries. These things do not require probate. File the list of any other property with the probate court within 90 days of taking office as executor.

Place a notice in the newspaper advising anyone the deceased owed money to that she has died, and that the will is in probate. You’ll also need to send direct notice by certified mail to any creditors you know about, such as auto lenders or mortgage holders. Creditors have four months to submit a claim for payment from the funds of the deceased’s estate. As you receive claims, you must decide if they’re valid or not, and either pay them from estate funds or reject them, if you don't think they're legitimate. If you reject them, the creditor can ask the court to overturn your decision.

File income tax returns for the deceased and for her estate, then prepare a final accounting for the court. The accounting should show all financial transactions you have made on the estate's behalf. This includes all taxes, debts and expenses you have paid, such as the cost of the newspaper notice and certified mailings.

Notify the court that you've completed probate. The court will assign a date for a final hearing. Give written notice to all beneficiaries in the will, as well as all immediate relatives of the deceased and the creditors, of the date. This must be done at least 15 days in advance.

Appear in court at the appointed time. If your paperwork is complete and there are no questions regarding it, the judge will issue an order closing the estate. The order allows you to distribute any bequests in the will to the people the deceased named to receive them.

About the Author

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.

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