Probate Lawyer Assisting Clients in Bedford and Throughout Texas
Everyone talks about avoiding probate. Why? Because probate can be a costly and time-consuming process that can keep a family tied up for months or even years after a loved one dies. It can delay the distribution of assets, keep debts from being paid in a timely manner, and can sometimes increase conflicts between family members.
Probate is a court process that oversees the administration of an estate. The probate court makes sure that the executor of an estate is following the guidelines of the will, if there is one, and fulfilling their fiduciary responsibilities in a legal and ethical way.
If the will is unclear or missing, this can delay the probate process and often causes conflicts among family members. Careful estate planning can minimize the impact of probate and, in some cases, eliminate the need for it entirely.
Contact Anita K. Cutrer, Attorney at Law, today at 817-854-1651 to get started on a comprehensive estate plan that can minimize or eliminate probate.
What Happens in the Probate Process if There is a Will in Texas?
Probate is a process by which a court legally recognizes a person’s death and oversees the payment of debts and distribution of assets from the deceased person’s estate. These tasks are handled by the executor named in the will, but the probate court supervises the process. In Texas, the executor has up to 4 years to file for probate with the county clerk’s office, but most file much more quickly.
For a simple, uncontested estate, probate can be finished in as little as 6 months. For contested wills or cases in which the original will cannot be located, however, the process can take well over a year.
Once the probate process has begun, the court will oversee the executor in performing duties such as gathering the assets of the estate and establishing their value, paying any debts or obligations of the estate, and transferring any remaining assets to the heirs as directed by the will.
What if There is No Will?
Dying without a will is called dying intestate. All states have intestacy laws that specify how assets will be distributed in the absence of a valid will. The ways that the estate is divided are complex and depend upon whether the deceased was married, had children or grandchildren, or if unmarried, had other living relatives, such as parents or siblings.
Though it is rare, when a person dies and has no living relatives of any kind, their estate will go to the state of Texas.
When a person has died without leaving a valid will, that means that no executor has been named. In that case, Texas law requires that the probate court appoints an administrator to carry out the duties of an executor. Often, one of the primary heirs will be named as the administrator.
If a deceased person has minor children who do not have another biological or adoptive parent who is able to care for them, the probate court will appoint a guardian, often a relative, when possible.
Do All Assets Go Through Probate?
Some assets do not go through the probate process. Assets held in trust, bank accounts that are payable on death, property that has a Transferred on death Deed, and retirement accounts with named beneficiaries do not have to go through the probate process. In some cases, it is possible to avoid the probate process entirely with the right combination of trusts and beneficiary accounts. An experienced estate planning and probate lawyer can advise you on methods to minimize or avoid probate, thus saving money and time.
What Are Some Probate Terms I Should Know?
As is true for just about any process involving lawyers and the courts, probate uses some specialized terminology that it is helpful to know if your loved one’s estate is going through the probate process. Some important probate terms are:
- Will: This is the legal document that specifies how the deceased wanted assets distributed and to whom.
- Decedent: This is the legal term for the person who has died.
- Estate: The estate is all of the decedent’s assets at the time of death, including, among other things: cash, real property (homes, land, etc.), investment accounts, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, vehicles, and personal belongings.
- Beneficiaries: Another word for a beneficiary is an heir. The beneficiaries are the people who will inherit from the estate of the deceased.
- Executor: The executor is the person named in the will whose duties will include taking inventory and cataloging the decedent’s assets, paying debts of the estate, paying taxes of the estate, filing lawsuits for claims owed to the estate, and distributing assets from the estate to the beneficiaries as named in the decedent’s Last Will and Testament.
- Administrator: The administrator is the person appointed to fulfill the role usually filled by the executor if the deceased had no will and, therefore, no named executor.
How Can Anita K. Cutrer, Attorney at Law, Help with Probate?
Estate planning and probate lawyer Anita K. Cutrer has practiced throughout Texas for over 20 years. Her experience and skill benefit clients who are either hoping to streamline or avoid the probate process after they pass away or who are going through the probate process for a loved one and need legal counsel or representation.
The probate process can be complicated, lengthy, and expensive without a proper estate plan in place. Call the office of Anita K. Cutrer, Attorney at Law, at 817-854-1651 for a free consultation.