Most people who lose a loved one invariably wind up having to determine how to settle their deceased loved one’s estate. Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions regarding what to do.
My family member died without a will. Do I need to go to Probate Court to handle the estate?
Often times, there will be property that the deceased family member owned that must be properly titled through a probate court. Most typically, it is a home. Many families find this out when they try to sell the home and a prospective buyer or title company objects to the seller’s ability to sell it. Even though the family may have the will, which clearly spells out their right to inherit the home, this is not enough. In order to satisfy the buyer or title company, the deed must be corrected to show proper ownership and chain of title. In addition, it may be difficult to gain access to all of the deceased family member’s financial accounts unless the surviving family member(s) has formal letters issued by a probate court authorizing him or her to act on behalf of the estate.
My family member died with a will. Do I need to go to Probate Court to handle the estate?
The answer is generally the same as above, as it relates to property. A will by itself will typically not be enough to convince others to transact business with a representative of the estate. What’s more, as an executor named in a will, there are very important reasons for ensuring that the will is valid, binding and is administered properly. This is best done under the supervision of a probate court.
My family member’s estate is small. I don’t want to spend too much in legal fees because there is not much there to begin with.
Under Texas law, there is a process for small estates, which are generally defined as those under $50,000. Also, if the only meaningful asset is a home, there is a process called “Muniment of Title” which allows a representative to effectively obtain correct title, without observing all of the administrative procedures typically involved in probating a will. Other processes, such as “independent administration” may allow for a cost effective, expedient settlement of the estate.