When a loved one dies, probate refers to the legal process that oversees the execution of their last will. Probate isn’t always necessary, but it typically applies to cases that involve real estate.
Navigating the probate process, understanding how long the Texas probate timeline is, and taking on the role of executor of the estate are challenges you might have to face.
Read on to learn more about Texas state law and what to expect when executing the will of a deceased person.
Texas Probate Process
What does the Texas probate process look like? Before their death, a decedent might have filed a will with their local court system. If they didn’t, a close relative could submit a will they found to a probate court.
The court will then schedule a hearing. The purpose of this hearing is to determine whether the will is valid. A probate judge will also verify the decedent’s death and make sure the executor can fulfill their duties. The court will issue letters testamentary to grant the executor the authority to manage the decedent’s finances.
After this hearing, the executor has 90 days to prepare an inventory of the estate’s assets. They’ll also have to notify the beneficiaries, reach out to creditors, and file the decedent’s last tax return.
Disputes may arise. The executor will have to review the list of claims against the estate and settle them. Claims can include unpaid taxes or outstanding debts.
Once the executor has settled these disputes, they can distribute the remaining assets between the beneficiaries. In situations where the estate includes real estate property, the executor can look into finding cash home buyers in Texas to sell the property quickly and distribute the proceeds between the heirs. This guide to selling property in probate will help you learn more.
Texas Probate Laws
State laws govern the probate process, which is why it varies from one state to another. In Texas, the Texas Estates Code replaced the Texas Probate Code in 2014 and outlines the rules to follow.
The main rule to keep in mind is that the executor has to settle all claims against the estate before distributing the remaining assets.
If the decedent didn’t have an original will, the Texas Intestate Succession laws apply. The executor will distribute assets to the surviving spouse first. Then, children, parents, and siblings will receive property.
Texas law includes provisions for contesting a will. Even after the executor settles the estate, it’s possible to contest a will and raise heirship questions up to two years after its execution.
Under Texas law, not all assets fall under probate. Typically, probate applies to assets that don’t designate a person as a beneficiary. It includes real estate, bank accounts, life insurance with no beneficiaries listed, and more.
Some assets are non-probate assets. Beneficiaries will receive these assets outside of the probate process. Non-probate assets can include retirement accounts, payable-on-death accounts, community property, and more.
Texas Probate Timeline
The duration of the probate process in Texas varies depending on the estate’s characteristics and the probate method. The probate method can be specified by the testator, but the executor can also ask for different probate methods.
The executor of the estate can initiate probate within four years of the death of a loved one. Once they file for a probate court hearing, there is a waiting period of two weeks.
If the court recognizes the will and the executor, there is a 90-day timeframe for completing an inventory and reaching out to the beneficiaries.
The Texas probate timeline for settling debts and resolving disputes can vary. It’s possible to settle an estate with no debt in as little as 30 days, but a complex probate case can last for years.
Distributing the assets can also take time, especially if there is a real estate property to sell. It’s best to look into selling a house without a realtor to speed up this process.
Once the executor has distributed the assets according to the will or Texas Intestate Succession law, the court will issue an affidavit and officially close the estate.
How Quickly Can You Go Through Probate in Texas?
From the time you probate a will to the moment you close an estate, anywhere from 30 days to several years can go by.
If the estate has no debt, you can file for a muniment of title and settle the estate with limited involvement from a Texas probate court. This approach is faster and typically allows you to settle the estate within a month.
Small estates valued at less than $75,000 are eligible for a small estate affidavit. This document limits the involvement of the court and results in a shorter timeline.
You can also settle faster thanks to independent administration. However, the decedent has to request this type of administration in their will. This type of probate administration limits the influence of the court and makes it possible to settle an estate in six months or less.
A probate proceeding will last longer under dependent administration since the court will have to oversee the entire process. There are a few things you can do to settle the estate within a reasonable timeframe:
- Put together a comprehensive list of the estate’s assets along with their accurate value.
- Reach out to creditors as early as possible and establish open communication to resolve outstanding accounts.
- Keep track of the deadlines from the probate court system.
- Think about getting help from an attorney who specializes in probate cases.
Probate in Texas: What You Should Know
These important estate administration questions will give you a better idea of what to expect from the probate process in Texas.
Fees and Expenses
Between appraisal fees, court fees, and attorney fees, probating a will can be costly. The executor isn’t personally responsible for these fees, and the estate will cover these expenses.
Some decedents require that the executor of their will obtain a probate bond. This practice adds a layer of protection for the beneficiaries since the bond agency will issue payments to their heirs if the executor fails to execute the will.
Besides navigating the legal aspect of the probate process, the executor often has to liquidate assets to settle the estate.
Between mortgage balances, credit card balances, and tax bills, meeting the estate’s obligations can feel overwhelming. A common strategy is to sell real estate assets quickly to obtain the funds necessary to pay off creditors. We can help if you need to sell a house fast in Wichita Falls, TX, or another area.
Avoid delays by filing with the right probate court. In Texas, you should start the probate process by filing with the county clerk.
Some counties rely on general county courts for probate cases, but larger counties usually have a statutory probate court. Contact your county clerk to find out which court will handle your case.
Who Can Execute a Will?
The executor should be at least 18 and have no criminal record. The court will verify that the executor is sound of mind and that no conflicts of interest exist.
If the decedent didn’t appoint an executor in their will, a close relative can volunteer. The court will review their application and determine its validity. During the two weeks that precede the court hearing, other relatives can contest this request and ask the court to consider a different executor.
The executor doesn’t have to be a resident of Texas. However, if you’re outside of Texas, it’s best to appoint a personal representative who can receive communications from the court.
As an executor, you have some responsibilities toward the estate and its beneficiaries. If you fail to settle the estate, the probate court can remove you and choose another executor.
Family members can also sue the executor for breach of fiduciary duty and even bring up criminal charges if there is evidence of wrongdoing from the executor.
Probate cases can be complex. It’s usually best to get help from a law firm. An experienced lawyer can help you navigate this process and even negotiate with creditors on behalf of the estate.
Law firms typically offer a free consultation so you can find out more about whether probate will apply to your case.
Probate Cases and Selling Real Estate Properties
As executor of a will, you have the responsibility of carrying on the last wishes of a loved one. However, this process can be stressful and time-consuming.
You can make probate easier by selling real estate properties to cash buyers. Instead of waiting for months, you can get an offer within a week and get funds you can use to pay creditors or distribute to the beneficiaries of the estate.
We buy houses in Arlington, TX, owners want to sell fast. We offer a simple and transparent process. We’ll make you a fair offer once we know more about the property we’re selling, and you can decide whether to take it or leave it.
Take a look at this case study to learn more about selling a property to a cash buyer.