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Your Will and Probate

What is a will? The answer seems obvious, but it is generally a good idea to explain the basics. A will is the written document in which you state who (the beneficiaries) will receive your property upon your death. This includes alternate beneficiaries in the event that the primary beneficiaries predecease you. The will also names the individual(s) who will serve as executor(s) of your estate and, if applicable, as trustee(s) of any trusts created under the will. The executor is responsible for administering your estate. This means gathering your assets, issuing notices to creditors and paying debts, and distributing assets to the beneficiaries or alternate beneficiaries. The trustee holds and manages any assets for the beneficiaries of any trusts created, such as for a surviving spouse or children.

In Texas, probating a will is an efficient process. The executor, or any person who has an interest in the estate, files an application for probate of the will. A brief hearing is held at which the judge takes testimony concerning the death of the decedent and the authenticity of the will. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge enters an order admitting the will to probate and appointing the independent executor. After taking an oath and obtaining letters testamentary, the independent executor prepares and files an inventory, appraisement, and list of claims. The letters testamentary serve as proof of authority to act on behalf of the estate. Once the judge approves the inventory, the independent executor administers the estate without further court supervision.

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