Sooner or later, we all end up in probate. Probate is the legal process that occurs following the death of an individual. If the departed has a legally binding will in place, probate court will verify the document and guarantee their wishes are followed. However, if the departed didn’t leave behind a last will and testament, the State takes control of the distribution of assets. Our probate attorney Austin TX is here to help navigate the complexities of probate court.
As you enter the journey of probate court, you may see some unfamiliar terms. These terms include:
- Decedent: the legal term for a deceased individual and whose estate is currently in the probate process.
- Estate: the overarching term for the decedent’s assets, including but not limited to: real estate holdings, cash, bonds, stocks, retirement accounts, life insurance policies, personal belongings, and vehicles.
- Beneficiaries: individuals named in the will (or the court will determine in the case of no will) who are to receive assets from the decedent’s estate.
- Executor: if the decedent leaves a valid will, typically the document names an individual to serve as the executor of the estate. The duties of the executor include, but are not limited to: catalog and inventory the decedent’s assets, pay taxes of the estate, pay debts of the estate, distribute assets from the estate to the beneficiaries as named in the decedent’s last will and testament, and file lawsuits for claims owed to the estate.
- Adminstrator: if the decedent has departed without leaving a valid will and thus no executor, the State names an administrator to carry out the duties of the executor.
If your dearly departed has left a will, our probate attorney Austin TX can assist you to validate their will to honor their last wishes. Generally, probate court is straightforward. However, the circumstances surrounding your dearly departed’s estate dictates the scope of work needed.
When Probate Isn’t Needed
Certain assets pass directly to the new owner without passing through probate court, including:
- the departed’s life insurance policy
- survivor’s benefits from an annuity
- community property with right of survivorship
- payable-on-death bank accounts
- property held as a joint tenancy with right of survivorship
Independent Administration of Estates
The majority of Texas wills direct the executor to seek an independent administration. Typically, they’re simple, quicker, and less expensive than the alternative (dependent administration). Should the will (or lack of will) not request an independent administration, the executor or administrator may petition the court for authority to act as independent executors on the condition that the beneficiaries concur.
Independent administration means the executor:
- need not petition the court for permission before acting to settle estate matters, such as distributing assets to the beneficiaries, paying debts, selling estate property, and setting aside a family allowance
- need not post a bond (an insurance policy protecting the estate against losses caused by the executor’s careless or dishonest acts)
Still, an independent executor must file an inventory of assets with the court and publish notice to potential creditors.
Dependent Administration of Estates
Administrators and executors may seek a dependent administration, which, as the name suggests, is heavily dependent upon court supervision of the probate process.
Muniment of Title
When there’s a will, a muniment title might be a simple, inexpensive avenue to transfer funds, if:
- the will is valid
- Medicaid has no claim against the estate for recovery of benefits received by the departed
- there are no unpaid debts, except those secured by real estate
If applicable, the will must be filed along with a request to probate as a muniment of title. If the court determines it’s acceptable to bypass a probate administration, the will is admitted into probate as a muniment of title to the estate assets. Then, the will essentially serves as a document that transfers assets to the beneficiaries or entities’ named to inherit them.
Hire a Probate Attorney Austin TX
Whatever the circumstances surrounding your dearly departed, our probate attorney Austin TX will help navigate the waters of probate court. Probate court can become complicated quickly; we’re here to un-muddle the water. Give us a call to schedule a free consultation, and we’ll begin strategizing the best probate course of action.
To find out how we can help you, contact our Probate Attorney Austin TX at 512-400-7070 for an estate planning. We will schedule an initial client consultation to review your estate planning details and lay out a structure for your will. AZ Law Firm will draft the necessary documents to secure your loved ones’ future.
- evaluating and explaining to you the pros and cons of your estate plan
- discussing with you any available options and our proposed strategies as it relates to your estate plan
- providing guidance and recommendations regarding estate planning
- quickly and effectively communicating with you during each step of the process so that you are not left in the dark
- taking your case solely on a contingent fee basis
- and drafting and enacting legally binding estate planning documents
We understand times are tough and that there probably hasn’t been a tougher time in your life. Although we could get away with charging exuberant amounts, we prefer not to as we are a law firm by the people, for the people. We do not want you to worry about whether you can afford to hire an attorney to protect and defend your rights. Call us and be surprised at the quality you receive compared to what other law firms will quote you!
Accordingly, the attorneys at AZ Law Firm will always provide you with a free initial consultation. During this initial consultation, our estate planning lawyers will evaluate your case, inform you of any legal options that may be available, and allow you to ask any questions that you may have. AZ Law Firm offers affordable rates for all our clients and will work with you on payment plans. Our firm accepts checks, debit cards, and most major credit cards to cover the costs of your legal representation.