The Woodlands Probate Attorneys
Dossey & Jones, PLLC Helps You Navigate Probate Law in Montgomery County
What is Probate Administration? - When a person dies, legal steps must be taken to transfer the title to their property. Title to property does not pass automatically to those named in a decedent's Will. The Will must be admitted to probate and a representative appointed by the court to act on behalf of the estate.
On the other hand, not all Wills must be admitted to probate. Whether or not a probate proceeding is necessary will depend on the assets owned by the decedent and how they were titled. Certain situations can be handled without court involvement.
Dying Without a Will in Texas
When you die without a will, your estate is considered intestate. This means the courts will typically distribute your assets according to Texas intestacy laws. There are several options for probate when a person dies without a will, some of which do not involve a judicial proceeding:
- Affidavit of Heirship
- Determination of Heirship
- Small Estate Affidavit
Probate for decedents that had a well-drafted will is a simpler process but still requires that the will be admitted to probate to pass title to assets. The court will also appoint a representative to act on behalf of the estate to pay all debts and taxes and to distribute the remaining estate to the decedent's family, heirs, or beneficiaries.
Affidavit of Heirship
An affidavit of heirship is a sworn statement that establishes ownership of the property for the deceased person. This document must be signed by those who swear under oath that they had personal knowledge of the decedent's property. Additionally, witnesses to this signing must indicate they have nothing to personally gain from the affidavit.
Determination of Heirship
This option is available if the probate time period has passed, yet the deceased person still has a property in their name. Any person considered an heir can file a petition which includes
- The name and address of the deceased person
- The name and address of all heirs, with their relationship to the deceased person
- A description of the property in question
After the petition is filed, the court will hold a hearing where each heir will need to provide evidence of their relationship to the deceased.
Small Estate Affidavit
Similar to an affidavit of heirship, a small estate affidavit is a sworn statement that the deceased person's estate qualifies as a small estate for an expedited probate process.
Under Texas law, estates valued at less than $75,000 generally qualify as small estates. Additionally, the assets of the estate must be greater than the estate's debts, and the only real estate property owned by the deceased person was their home or homestead, which will only be inherited by those living with the deceased person at the time of their death. Finally, all heirs need to be located and all must sign the small estate affidavit.
There are additional factors that can complicate a small estate affidavit, which is why it's important to consult with a probate lawyer with experience in Texas intestacy law.
Helping Clients Fulfill Their Fiduciary Duties in Montgomery County
Probate administration is not a minor responsibility; the estate's representative has a fiduciary duty to collect and manage the estate according to the will of the decedent or the order of the court, pay all proper creditor claims, and always act in the best interests of all heirs and beneficiaries. Our firm can provide a highly qualified Texas attorney to advise you when you are administering an estate. We know Texas probate law inside and out and can guide you step by step through the probate administration process.
A typical probate process will involve:
- Admitting the will into the court record, or if the decedent died intestate (without a will) having a determination of the rightful heirs;
- Having an executor or administrator appointed by the court;
- Filing the initial inventory and required notices to beneficiaries, charities, and creditors;
- Collecting assets and obtaining valuations, if necessary;
- Preparing interim reports and requests to the court, if necessary;
- Filing final income and estate tax returns for the decedent;
- Working with creditors to pay all of the decedent's final debts and expenses;
- Preparing a plan of distribution if there is more than one beneficiary; and
- Coordinating distributions to the beneficiaries and heirs.
Serving as Executor or Administrator
An executor is a court-appointed representative of the estate that was named in a person's will. If the person appointed by the court is not named in the will, they are known as an administrator. We can assist you in determining who should be appointed by the court, or if there is no family member able to serve, we can also fill the role of administrator.
When no executor is named in a will, we can file a petition with the court to have you or a third party act as probate administrator of the estate. Anyone who has been named as an executor of an estate or who needs a qualified individual to fill this role of an administrator should look no further than Dossey & Jones, PLLC, located in The Woodlands.
We Can Help You Handle Probate in Montgomery County
Dossey & Jones, PLLC has years of experience in several legal areas, including probate and estate planning. Paige Jones is a board-certified probate and estate planning specialist with the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. We are more than qualified to counsel you in your role as executor.
“My father started using Dale’s dad as his CPA in the 50’s. Dale started doing our legal and tax work when he got out of school. Dale has been the only lawyer I have ever had. He has always done a good job. My son is now using Dale’s son Jim as his lawyer.” - BB
“Excellent Attorney” - Clare
“Paige Jones helped me set up a complex personal estate strategy. And she made sure I knew what I was doing! Thank you so much!” - GYF