How Probate Works

When a probate lawyer, like a probate lawyer in Arlington, TX,  hears the words “simple probate,” many things run through their heads. There are several different types of probate, and each type has a different type of filing that needs to occur with the county court. 

For example, the typical Tarrant County probate process in Texas is that of simple Tarrant County probate. The typical probate process consists of an original will with a self-proving affidavit attached to the will. This kind of will enables the attorney to prove the will more easily and is less complicated for the surrounding counties clients as well. Without having this type of will, additional disinterested witnesses (people not benefiting from the estate) and the subscribing witnesses of the original signing of the will have to come to the hearing and testify.

Hire an Attorney to Help with Paperwork

When having a simple valid will, the Tarrant County probate process of an estate flows much more easily, and aside from cheaper costs of probating the will, the protocols and deadlines are similar in the typical probate process. A good attorney will strive to assist his or her clients in filing the appropriate documents with the proper county correctly the first time.

Deadlines in Probate

Once you have established your witnesses, oaths, orders, and proofs that have to

be prepared by your attorney, you have three mandatory deadlines that are expected from the county. For example, in the Tarrant County courts, after the prove up hearing where the client has been sworn in as the executor or administrator of the estate, the first deadline to be completed within 30 days consists of notifying all the heirs of the estate. Most of the time this is an easy process; however sometimes you have heirs that need to be located and this could be time

consuming. Once the heirs-at-law have been identified the Arlington Tarrant County probate attorney will prepare an official notice and file with the courts.

The second deadline is to notice the creditors that again your attorney has to prepare and file with the courts. The Arlington probate attorney also has to prepare an affidavit of compliance and file with the courts to avoid any penalties against the client or estate. This is the step to officially notify any creditors against the estate. A benefit of hiring a probate attorney from the is that the probate attorney has the authority to negotiate these claims for the heirs-at-law and is able to lower, if not dissolve, the debt in its entirety.

The most important deadline for a typical Tarrant County Probate or surrounding county probate is the preparation and filing of the estate inventory. This can be a complicated process due to how large the estate is, let alone how to divide the assets accordingly. If the inventory is not filed within 90 days from appointment, as executor or administrator or a motion for extension is not filed, the courts can penalize a client for delay by making them pay a fine. Therefore, it is imperative that the client always communicates with their probate attorney. 

Division of Assets

Once the Inventory has been filed with the courts and the order approving the inventory has been signed by the judge, the probate attorney can begin to assist with the division of assets to the heirs-at-law. This can be a complicated process due to receipts of devise and preparing the correct affidavits and receipts of devise to ultimately excuse the executor or administrator of their duties and responsibilities. As an executor or administrator, a person has been appointed by the courts and is ultimately reliable and held accountable for all assets from the estate. A good lawyer will strive to be fair and equitable when it comes to all asset divisions, down to the last penny. 

An attorney does not want any bad faith claims or accusations towards his or her client, or the estates that the Arlington probate attorneys handle. A good attorney will strive to achieve all deadlines prior to the actual demand for them, and assist his or her clients with the most effective knowledge and preparation of the county court’s processes. Without having the knowledge to prepare for the demanding deadlines, filing of appropriate motions and orders to the courts has proposed several penalties against the clients. An experienced lawyer will get this right the first time. 

Responsibilities of the Executor 

The majority of people believe that after they attend the hearing appointing them as executor or executrixes of an estate that the responsibility of the executor ceases with receiving the letters of testamentary. The responsibility simply begins with swearing in the administrator and the legal responsibility of administering the estate officially commences.

Some of the responsibilities of the executor are to notify of all the heirs that are to be a recipient of the estate. This task alone can prove to be difficult at times when families drift apart through the years; however, the executor has a fiduciary duty to notify all heirs at law and may even have to post an announcement in the local newspaper. Your attorney will assist you in meeting all scheduling deadlines. 

After notifying all heirs and providing them with copies of the will if there is one, the executor then has to notify all the creditors of the estate by official publication. Once notice has been published, the executor has to then begin to negotiate the outstanding bills that are against the estate. With the assistance of an attorney, the debtors are more than likely able to accept a reduction of the balance owed by the decedent. A good probate attorney will negotiate on behalf of the executor and keep a record of all funds paid on behalf of the estate. The executor has the final approval and must authorize payments to all creditors. The attorney then must keep a ledger of all payments paid and include them within the inventory for the court’s approval.

With the help of an attorney, the executor then must complete an inventory, appraisement and list of claims due and owed for the estate. The executor must inventory all items of the estate including real property and personal items of the decedent. In most estates you are able to waive an appraiser; however the executor is responsible for inventorying the entire estate. The purpose of this is to obtain the total value of the estate so that the funds can be distributed to the heirs at law or the heirs that are listed within the decedent’s last will and testament.

Approving the Inventory 

Once the inventory has been investigated and approved by the judge, he or she will then sign the order approving the inventory. After this occurs, the executor has the ability to begin distribution of the estate. The executor must provide the beneficiaries with copies of the inventory and have the attorney draft receipts for the division of either property or funds that the beneficiary is to receive. All beneficiaries must sign for the acceptance of funds in order to relinquish the executor from its duties.

After all funds have been distributed and the receipts have been filed with the courts, the executor may now file to close the estate. In order to officially close the estate, all receipts for division of property must be filed, and all beneficiaries must receive notice of closing the estate. The beneficiaries must sign a receipt of receiving notice and relinquish the executor from the estate. If all notices and receipts have been filed accordingly to the estates code, then the estate will officially be closed within 30 days after the last filing has been submitted.

The Executor’s Duties

The executor is bound by the courts and obligated to fulfill all duties of the estate. If the Executor does not comply accordingly, then a dispute or a contest can arise from lack of maintaining the fiduciary duty to the estate. The executor must distribute all assets in accordance to the last will and testament. If they do not, they are subject to removal as the executor and can even have a lawsuit filed against them for misconduct or fraud.

It is wise to seek advice from an attorney that is proficient in the probate process to assist you during this difficult time. The deadlines presented within the probate process are tricky, time consuming, and have deprecations for not complying in accordance to the estate code. Therefore, reach out to a probate lawyer today to assist you with this difficult process and let him or her be your guide. 

Thanks to Brandy Austin Law Firm for their insight into how probate works.