As a Houston probate lawyer, I am often asked how much it costs to probate an estate in Houston and the surrounding areas. The answer I always give is “it depends”. I hate to give vague answers, but this is not a question that can be addressed without knowing the answers to several questions, such as:
- Where did the decedent reside? Generally, probate for a person’s estate takes place in the county where he resides at the time of his death. If a person resides in Houston, for example, the Harris County Probate Courts will be the appropriate venue to file administration or other proceedings. If the decedent lived in Sugar Land, then the County Courts at Law located in Fort Bend County will be the appropriate venue. The filing fees may vary from one county to the next, and the filing fee will depend on the type of administration filed. For example, currently the cost to file an application to probate a will in a Harris County Probate Court is $273. Due to the electronic filing requirements imposed upon lawyers filing civil matters such as probate cases, the cost will usually also include a small fee associated with the filing.
- Did the decedent have a will? If the decedent died with a valid last will and testament, the administration process will generally be more streamlined and efficient than if he died without a will (known as dying “intestate”). Most wills provide for an “independent administration”, meaning that there will be minimal court involvement and supervision. If the decedent died intestate, it may be possible for an independent administration in some circumstances, but it will often take more time and effort to open an independent administration because all of the decedent’s heirs usually have to agree on having this type of administration, as well as agreeing on who will serve as the administrator for the estate.
- How big is the decedent’s estate? For smaller estates, there are procedures available that can avoid a full administration, such as a small estate affidavit. There are several different probate procedures that may be available depending on the size of the estate. It may also be possible to do an heirship without an administration under some circumstances.
This is just a small sample of questions that have to be answered in order to determine the proper probate procedure for a decedent’s estate in Texas. Depending on the specific circumstances surrounding the decedent’s assets and family situation, it can be difficult to choose the ideal procedure for a given estate. You should speak with a Houston probate lawyer to determine which probate procedure is a good fit for your specific needs.