Following the death of a loved one or close friend in Texas, his or her estate will likely need to go through some form of probate. Generally speaking, probate is the process through which the Decedent’s assets are collected, any remaining liabilities are liquidated, taxes are paid, and the rest of the estate is distributed to the Decedent’s beneficiaries. If you have lost someone close to you, attorney Anna Valkovich can advise you of your alternatives and help you navigate the appropriate probate process.
When There is a Will
In a probate administration, the Decedent’s Will is filed with the probate court. After the Will is filed, the court will appoint an executor, who will then begin the process of inventorying the Decedent’s assets, paying any debts or taxes, pursuing any claims against third parties on behalf of the estate, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries. The executor’s responsibilities end when this process is complete and the estate administration has been closed.
Muniment of Title
In Texas, we have a streamlined probate process known as a “Muniment of Title.” This probate mechanism is unique to Texas, and is available if the Decedent left a valid Will and the estate owes no debts other than those secured by real estate (e.g. a mortgage). Instead of appointing an administrator of the estate, the court will admit the Will to probate as a Muniment of Title and will sign an Order to that effect. The Order is then filed in the real property records, and can also be used to transfer title of the Decedent’s other property.
Probating a Will as a Muniment of Title can be quick and cost-effective; however, it has its limitations. If the estate contains a lot of financial assets or real property located outside of Texas, transferring assets may involve working with individuals in other states who simply don’t understand the process and who may not accept the Order. Attorney Anna Valkovich will provide you with guidance as to whether a Muniment of Title is appropriate for your circumstances.
When There is not a Will
When a Texas resident dies without a Will, or “intestate,” Texas law determines the beneficiaries of that person’s estate. If a loved one has died without a Will and you need to distribute the estate, Anna Valkovich can advise you of your options and guide you through the best available probate process.
Small Estate Affidavit
A Small Estate Affidavit is a relatively short, informal probate process which is available a Decedent dies without a Will and the estate is valued at $50,000 or less, excluding the homestead. Once the Affidavit is signed by each of the Decedent’s heirs at law and two disinterested witnesses, the probate court will issue an Order approving the Affidavit and the estate and the estate can be distributed.
Determination of Heirship
The Decedent’s estate can also be distributed through a formal Judicial Determination of Heirship in which the court makes a formal declaration of the identity of the Decedent’s heirs. If there is no need for formal administration of the estate, the Decedent’s assets will then be distributed according to the terms of the Order determining heirship. If there is a need for administration, the court will appoint a personal representative to administer the estate.
Houston estate planning attorney Anna Valkovich can guide you through the probate system following the death of a loved one. To schedule your free initial consultation, contact The Valkovich Law Firm.