Serving Clients Throughout Fort Worth, Dallas, and Saginaw
Although people are generally familiar with the term probate, it can also be confusing. Put simply, probate is a court-supervised legal proceeding where a will is proved in court and found to be valid, or if there is no will or the will is invalid, the court determines the heirs of the deceased person.
Understanding the definition of probate may still leave you with questions, especially at an emotional time when a loved one passes away. Am I responsible for paying all the bills? What should I do with the house and cars? How can I get access to bank accounts or other assets? Texas law provides for many options in probate, such as independent administration, muniment of title, and small estate affidavit. it is imperative to engage the services of a trustworthy attorney to determine which option is best suited to your situation. Contact our office for a free consult.
The Law Office of Carey Thompson, PC provides probate and estate administration services to clients in Azle, Blue Mound, Fort Worth, Haslet, Keller, Lake Worth, Newark, Saginaw, and throughout greater Tarrant County. We are familiar with the rules and customs of the local probate courts. We work with clients to recommend the type of probate needed, and guide and assist executors and estate administrators in carrying out their important duties. We also represent beneficiaries or heirs who may need legal counsel to protect or assert their rights during the probate process.
Our probate and estate administration services include:
Independent or Dependent Administration
In Texas, the person appointed by the probate court to handle the estate of a deceased person is either called an executor if named in a will or an administrator for an estate without a will. Generally, the executor or administrator is responsible for gathering all the assets of the estate, paying the valid debts, and then distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries or heirs. This responsibility or authority is carried out through Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration, issued by the probate court after a hearing.
Because an executor/administrator must carry out his or her duties ethically, and can be held liable for any mistakes or misdeeds, it is helpful to work with a qualified probate and estate administration attorney. Steps include:
- Filing a petition with the probate court in the county in which the decedent lived
- Notifying beneficiaries and heirs named in the will or named by law
- Sending required notice of probate to secured creditors and permissive notice to unsecured creditors
- Inventorying and appraising estate assets
- Paying valid debts to creditors
- Distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries/heirs
Certain situations may call for dependent administration, where an executor/administrator carries out duties under the ongoing supervision of the court. An independent administration involves minimal court supervision. After your free consult at our office, we will review both and advise you.
Muniment of Title
Texas has a unique form of probate called muniment of title. This allows the transfer of property to beneficiaries named in a valid will when there is no need for estate administration. While muniment is generally more cost-effective than an administration, it is important to seek the advice of an experienced probate attorney to see if this is the way to proceed.
Determination of Heirship
When a person dies without a will or the will is invalid, it may be necessary for an interested person, such as a relative, to file an application with the probate court to determine the heirs at law who would receive the deceased person’s assets. There are several steps in this process before the court makes a final determination on the heirs, and if needed, an administrator will be appointed. Our experienced probate attorneys can guide you through this process.
Small Estate Affidavit
Sometimes smaller estates may be able to be probated through a small estate affidavit, as long as certain requirements are met. We can advise you on whether this is an option and handle the necessary documents and court proceedings.
Affidavit of Heirship
This document is a sworn statement that declares the identity of the heirs, and can be helpful when there is not a will or the will has not been probated. An affidavit of heirship can be a simple and valuable tool to transfer assets, but it has limits and isn’t appropriate in all situations. Let us help you determine what you need and how to best accomplish that.
Family Settlement Agreement
A Family Settlement Agreement is another probate tool that may be helpful in resolving will contests, or unclear instructions in a will, or even when there is no will. Creating this agreement requires negotiation skills and a thorough understanding of probate law.
Although many wills are contested during probate proceedings, this can be an expensive process to litigate. For this reason, we often encourage clients to reach a negotiated settlement, however, we are fully prepared to pursue or defend an estate litigation in the probate court. Ultimately, the best way to avoid a contest is to work with an experienced estate planning attorney in preparing a will, which can help to establish the validity of the document.
At the Law Office of Carey Thompson, PC, we routinely work with executors and administrators to ensure that estate assets and debts are handled properly. We can also advise you on how to deal certain types of assets not required to go through probate, including:
- Property owned jointly with “right of survivorship”
- Retirement accounts with designated beneficiaries
- Life insurance policies
- Bank accounts with POD (pay on death) of “in trust for” designations
- Property owned by a living trust
Solutions to Fit Your Needs
The cost and duration of probate can vary greatly depending of the size of the estate and the complexity of issues. A big portion of our expertise is in deciding what probate action to take to minimize cost and time. Whether you desire legal guidance and minimal assistance, or legal representation from start to finish, we can help. And we offer both flat fee and hourly rates to meet your needs and budget.
Probate and Estate Administration Attorney Servicing Fort Worth & Saginaw
Managing the estate of a deceased loved one can be an emotional challenge. Probate and estate administration can be complicated and mistakes can be costly.
At the Law Office of Carey Thompson, PC, we offer each client compassion, knowledge and objective insights to help guide them through this difficult time. Regardless of the circumstances, we are committed to making the probate process as stress-free as possible. If you have been named the executor of a loved one’s estate, or need assistance in figuring out what needs to be done when there is no will, contact our office today to set up a free consultation.
Carey Thompson is a probate attorney that serves clients in Azle, Dallas, Fort Worth, Keller, Saginaw, and throughout greater Tarrant County with any of their probate and estate administration needs.