Whether you’re doing estate planning or looking for a will in probate, you may be wondering if it’s publicly available. The short answer: yes, it is, and it’s filed in the probate court to begin the probate process. A will becomes part of official public records where any interested individual can request a copy of it.
Probate is the process by which a deceased person’s will and estate is handled and settled by the Tarrant County probate court. Not every estate needs to go through the probate process, and not all assets are a part of probate.
Probate “freezes” the estate until a judge is able to determine that the will is actually valid. Additionally, the relevant people are notified (i.e., beneficiaries, executors, etc.), the estate’s property has been identified, then appraised. Once the taxes and creditors are paid, the court issues an order for any remaining property or funds to be distributed. The estate will then be closed.
Any estate that has a total of less than $50,000 is called a “small estate,” and does not require probate. The homestead and any exempt property are not counted in the $50,000 total.
Filing The Will
An individual who dies is called the “testator.” Within thirty days of the testator’s death, the executor, a beneficiary, or a creditor can file the will with the Texas probate court in the county where the deceased lived and had most or all of their assets.
This begins the process of following the deceased’s final wishes and closing out their accounts and affairs. (You can find the fees for these services here.) However, the executor has up to 4 years to file for probate. After that, Texas’ intestacy laws will control how an estate will be distributed, as if he or she died without a will.
Two other documents are filed with the will: a petition that begins probate, and a separate document requesting that the executor named in the will be appointed and allowed to begin doing the work stated in the will. If the will doesn’t specify an executor, you can also request an administrator to be appointed to do the executor’s work.
You can find the appropriate Tarrant County probate court here. For individuals who lived out of state but died in Texas, the will is filed in the county where they died.
Finding The Will
You’ll need the deceased person’s name and date of death. You’ll also need all of their residences, including the one where they died. Additionally, you’ll need addresses of all the real estate they owned, including the city and county.
Once you’ve gathered pertinent information about the deceased, contact the Clerk of Court’s office about getting a copy. You may be required to go in person, and present an ID before receiving any information. There are fees involved as well, so be sure to ask.
Hiring a Fort Worth, Texas Probate Attorney
Fort Worth, Texas probate attorney Wendy L. Hart has extensive knowledge of Texas probate and family law. Serving the families of Tarrant County for over 24 years, she can draft and produce a will that accurately reflects all of your wishes.
From drafting the will to representing your interests in probate court, the Law Office of Wendy L. Hart provides integrity, professionalism, and 100% importance to every case and client. To speak with Wendy about creating or updating your will, call our Mansfield-Fort Worth law office today at (817) 842-2336.