How Probate Laws Work in Texas

When you lose a loved one, their estate must be cared for until it can be distributed according to the terms of the will. There is a great deal of responsibility during your time of grief. It can be a challenging period.

The legal process of distributing an estate is known as probate. Even if you aren’t the person handling the estate, it’s helpful to understand how this process works and what you can expect.

Is Probate Required in Texas?

Probate is a necessary process for estates in Texas. The law provides for probate to ensure the decedent’s wishes are carried out. However, there are ways to avoid probate if you are aware of your options.

How Do You Avoid Probate in Texas?

The best way to avoid probate completely only works if you plan ahead. You can put an estate in a living trust with named beneficiaries. When the person dies, the estate goes to those named without the need to go through court.

Sometimes, it’s not possible to avoid probate completely, but you may be able to keep some assets out of the process. Certain assets don’t need to be included in probate because they already have a named beneficiary. Life insurance policies are an excellent example of this type of asset. Retirement accounts may include a named beneficiary as well as other investments. Bank accounts often include a payable on death document with someone named to get the money in the account after the owner’s death.

Assets that were owned jointly with another person will automatically transfer to the new person if they were equal owners. Those assets won’t have to be included with probate.

Can an Executor of an Estate in Texas be Compensated?

Managing and settling an estate can take a great deal of time and effort. The executor deserves to be compensated for the work they do, and Texas law allows for it.

How Much Does an Executor in Texas Get Paid?

The Texas Estate Code provides some guidelines on how executors may be paid for their work on an estate in Chapter 352. Standard compensation is five percent on the value of the estate. This code also provides for alternate compensation if the standard amount was too low for their services or if they managed a farm, ranch or other business of the estate. The executor may receive reimbursement for any expenses they incurred from managing or preserving the estate.

How Long Does Probate Take in Texas?

Probate is usually completed in less than a year. Small estates may take less than six months, but complicated situations may last well over a year. With delays and contests of the will, probate can continue for several years.

Do All Estates Have to Go Through Probate in Texas?

Most estates will need to go through probate in Texas, but the majority will have a simplified process known as independent administration. Often, the will provides for a request to use this type of probate. Even if it doesn’t, the executor can ask the court to use independent administration as long as the beneficiaries are in agreement.

The executor will need to notify creditors and pay debts, but they don’t need to get permission from the court for every step. This process helps to complete probate much faster. Dependent administration requires court approval for each act.

Muniment of title is a way to keep an estate out of probate as long as there is a will and no unpaid debts. In this situation, the will is all that is necessary for the transfer of ownership of the assets. Another option is with a small estate affidavit, which is applicable for estates valued at $75,000 or under.

Does a Will Have to Be Probated in Texas?

A will must be presented to the court in Texas. The person who has the will files it with the court in the county where the decedent lived before their death. Even if there is no property to go through probate, the will must still be put on record. The court may need to validate it if there is anyone to contest it.

Settling an Estate in Texas

Settling an estate in Texas is much like in any other state. Certain steps must be taken to ensure the process goes smoothly. Timelines and other details will be different, so it is important to know what is expected. Even if you aren’t the executor, it can be helpful to understand what is happening.

While Texas has a simpler process than what is found in many other states, it can be quite complex. It may be helpful to discuss the estate with an estate attorney.

How Long Do You Have to File After a Death in Texas?

While there are exceptions, the general rule is to file probate within four years of a person’s death. If it isn’t filed in that time, the person’s estate will be handled as if no will exists.

Probate Court in Texas

In Texas, each county has its own probate court as part of the county court system. The district courts may also hear probate cases if there are issues with the case. In areas with a higher population, a special probate court has been created to help with the caseload. You can visit the Texas Judicial Website to locate the court in the county where the decedent lived

Probate Code in Texas

Texas has its own laws regarding probate under the Texas Statutes and the Estate Code. You can find those rules on the Texas Constitution and Statutes website: Texas Constitution and Statutes – Home.