When a loved one passes, the first order of business is to handle their arrangements, such as the funeral, burial or cremation, and other plans. Once the funeral is over, the probate process can begin.
Probate is a legal process and the administrative end to a person’s life. It can involve closing bank and other accounts, paying final bills such as credit cards, utilities, and phone bills, clearing out the home, whether owned or rented, for sale or returning to a landlord, and other administrative tasks. In most cases, an attorney is required for probate, but sometimes, they aren’t.
What A Probate Attorney Does
The probate attorney works with the estate’s executor or administrator (if there is one) to assess the estate and disseminate the estate’s assets and property to the proper beneficiaries. If there is no one available to become the executor or administrator, the probate attorney may take over those functions as well.
If the deceased person has a legal will already in place, it will need to be filed with the probate court. The court will verify the document and follow the wishes of the deceased. But if the deceased died without a will, or “intestate,” the probate court will handle the distribution of assets according to Texas state law. Whether or not the person had a will, an estate lawyer can make the process much easier.
Probating The Estate
The first step is to do a full accounting of the estate for both assets and liabilities, including:
• Filing the required court documents with the local court
• Finding insurance policies
• Handling appraisals for assets
• Manage the estate’s finances throughout the probate process
• Evaluate the validity of debts and arrange for payments
• Handle tax accounts (or work with an accountant) to handle the decedent’s final tax returns
If there is not enough money in the estate to pay all the debts, the attorney can seek permission from the court to sell assets to pay them.
These requirements can take considerable time, especially for someone who isn’t familiar with Texas probate laws.
What If The Deceased Had A Small Estate?
If a deceased person has less than $75,000, a small estate affidavit can be filed by an executor. The executor can request a court order without going through probate to request the amount in a person’s bank account. This information can then be used to file a small estate affidavit to handle the estate.
There are specific conditions for using a small estate affidavit for handling an estate. While you may feel like a probate attorney isn’t needed, consider speaking with one before proceeding to avoid mistakes.
Why You Should Have A Probate Attorney
Losing someone can be an emotional time, making handling their estate difficult. Family conflicts can make things more challenging, especially if they believe they were denied something they were entitled to receive.
Handing the estate to a probate attorney can not only make the loss easier, but it reduces the possibility mistakes and of conflicts between family members and with you.
Let Wendy L. Hart Help With Probate and Small Estate Affidavits
Wendy L. Hart is both an experienced family law attorney as well as a probate attorney. She can help with the probate process in Tarrant County and will work with you to make sure every detail is handled for you.
If you’re handling a loved one’s estate on your own, we’d be happy to help. You can call us at (817) 842-2336 or use our online contact form.