When a person dies, their assets must be distributed among their beneficiaries and their debts must be paid off. During the probate and estate administration process, the court will officially recognize their death and settle all issues relating to their estate.

If the person died with a valid will in place, the person named as executor will file for probate and follow Texas rules for probating a will.

Filing an application for probate

The first step is for the executor named in the will to file an application for probate in the county where the decedent lived. If there is a will, the executor will have four years from the date of the decedent’s death to submit the will for probate. If they do not file within that time period, the laws of intestate succession will apply and the decedent’s assets will be treated as if there was no will in place.

Once the application is filed, there will be a two-week waiting period, during which the county clerk will post a notice stating that the application was filed so that creditors, beneficiaries, and anyone else that may contest the will are aware that the person has died.

Validating the will and distributing assets

Once the two weeks are over, a judge will legally recognize the decedent’s death during a hearing and verify that the will was valid and verify the named executor. If there is no valid will, the court will appoint an administrator (typically one of the heirs of the decedent) to handle their estate going forward.

The executor or administrator will then be responsible for coming up with an inventory of the decedent’s assets within 90 days and prepare an ‘Inventory, Appraisement, and List of Claims.’ If there is a valid will, the beneficiaries will be identified and notified, as well as creditors. The debts will be paid, and if anyone decides to contest the will for invalidity, the disputes must be resolved before the assets are distributed.

Finally, once all disputes are handled and debts are paid off, the assets will be distributed to the beneficiaries.

The probate process in Texas can be complicated, particularly for larger estates. An estate planning attorney can be a very helpful resource when dealing with these issues.