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Houston TX Probate / Estate Administration

Houston TX Probate / Estate Administration

When a loved one passes away, his or her estate often goes through a court-managed process called probate or estate administration where the assets of the deceased are managed and distributed.  If your loved-one owned his or her assets through a well drafted and properly funded living trust, it is likely that no court-managed administration is necessary, though the successor trustee needs to administer the distribution of the deceased's assets.  The length of time needed to complete the probate of an estate depends on the size and complexity of the estate and the local rules and schedule of the probate court. 

Every probate estate is unique, but most involve the following steps:

  • Filing of an application/petition with the proper probate court.
  • Notice to beneficiaries under the Will or to statutory heirs (if no Will exists).
  • Application to appoint Executor (in the case of a Will) or Administrator for the estate.
  • Notice to Creditors published as required.
  • Inventory and Appraisement of estate assets by Executor/Administrator filed with the court.
  • Payment of estate debts to rightful creditors.
  • Sale of estate assets, if necessary. 
  • Payment of estate taxes, if applicable.
  • Final distribution of assets to beneficiaries/heirs.

PROBATE QUESTIONS

What happens if someone objects to the Will?

An objection to a Will, also known as a “Will contest” is a fairly common occurrence during the probate proceedings and can be incredibly costly to litigate.

In order to contest a Will, one has to have legal “standing” to raise objections.  This usually occurs when, for example children are to receive disproportionate shares under the Will, or when distribution schemes change from a prior Will to a later Will.  In addition to disputes over the tangible distributions, Will contests can be a quarrel over the person designated to serve as Executor.

Does probate administer all property of the deceased?

Probate is primarily a process through which title to assets is transferred from the name of the deceased to the names of the beneficiaries. 

Certain types of assets called “non-probate assets” do not go through probate.  These include:

  • Property in which you own title as “joint tenants with right of survivorship”.  Such property passes to the co-owners by operation of law and do not go through probate.
  • Retirement accounts such as IRA and 401(k) accounts where there are designated beneficiaries.
  • Life insurance policies.
  • Bank accounts with “pay on death” (POD) designations or “in trust for” designations.
  • Property owned by a living trust.  Legal title to such property passes to successor trustees without having to go through probate.


Do I get paid for serving as an Executor?

Executors are reimbursed for all legitimate out-of-pocket expenses incurred in the process of management and distribution of the deceased's estate.  In addition, you may be entitled to statutory fees, which vary from location to location and can vary depending on the size of the probate estate.  Additionally, the Will may provide for fees to be paid to the Executor.  The Executor has to fulfill his or her fiduciary duties on behalf of the estate with the highest degree of integrity and can be held liable for mismanagement of estate assets in his or her care.  It is advised that the Executor retain an attorney and an accountant to advise and assist the Executor with his or her duties.

How much does probate cost?  How long does it take?

The cost and duration of probate can vary substantially depending on a number of factors such as the value and complexity of the estate, the existence of a Will and the location of real property owned by the estate.  Will contests or disputes with alleged creditors over the debts of the estate can also add significant cost and delay.  Common expenses of an estate include executors fees, attorneys fees, accounting fees, court fees, appraisal costs, and surety bonds, if applicable.  We typically charge a flat fee for handling probate matters, which varies from case to case, depending on the specific facts of each matter.  Most estates can be settled through probate in about 6 to 18 months, assuming there is no litigation involved.


Law Offices of Elyssa M. Schnurr focus their practice on Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts of all degrees of complexity, Probate, Estate Administration & Business Entity Formation. They are also available to assist with Uncontested Divorces and Mediation. They serve clients throughout the greater Houston area, including, but not limited to Houston, Bellaire, West University, Sugar Land, Missouri City, Richmond, Rosenberg, Katy, Cypress, The Woodlands, Kingwood, League City, Webster, Clear Lake, Pearland, Angleton, and throughout Harris County, Fort Bend County, Montgomery County, Brazoria County and Galveston County.



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| Phone: 713-662-2889

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