Probate is the process whereby a court oversees the administration of a deceased person’s estate. The purpose of probating a person’s Will is to ensure that any final debts and expenses of the decedent are paid, which may include any taxes owed or that will be owed following the death of the decedent. Any assets remaining after all debts and expenses are paid are distributed to the beneficiaries named in a will. If a person dies without a will (also known as dying “intestate”), the administration process is governed by the Texas Estates Code. In the case of an intestate decedent, how the assets are distributed depends on several factors, such as whether the decedent was married, whether his or her property was community or separate, and whether he or she had any children.
There are various types of administrations to choose from when administering a decedent’s estate, depending on the size of the estate and the nature of the decedent’s assets. The most common type of administration for a person who dies with a valid last will and testament in place is an “independent” administration, which generally allows for a minimal amount of court involvement. Most Texas wills drafted by an attorney will include language that provides for an independent administration.
In some instances, it may not be necessary to complete a full administration of the decedent’s estate. For example, if a person dies in Texas with a will but has no probate assets other than a piece of real estate, it may be possible to probate the will as a “Muniment of Title”. In this case, the will is admitted to probate in the usual manner, but no administration is opened by the court. Rather, the will and the court order admitting the will to probate are recorded in the real property records of the county where the real property is located, and these documents are sufficient to pass title to the property without the need to administer the estate. This process is usually less time-consuming and less costly than an administration of the estate. It should be noted that this procedure may not be available in some cases if the decedent had any debts (other than debt secured by the real property) or if the decedent had applied for and received Medicaid benefits.
Contact a Houston probate attorney at the Vance Law Firm today for a free consultation regarding what type of probate procedure is appropriate for your case.