Texas Process of Intestate & Partial Intestacy
If your loved one died without a will (intestate), the probate process is more complicated. Since no will exists that dictates their wishes, these steps are taken:
1. The court determines the heirs to the estate.
This document asks the court to identify the heirs.
You must provide contact information for two disinterested witnesses, meaning witnesses who will not get anything from the estate.
3. The probate judge will appoint an attorney ad litem to represent the “unknown Heirs or heirs with a legal disability.”
4. The attorney ad litem will issue a report which lists the heirs and their respective shares of the estate according to the laws of descent and distribution which are detailed in the Texas Estates Code Chapter 201.
These laws state that the surviving spouse and children are the first to receive the decedent’s assets.
If no spouse or children exist, then the state looks to decedent’s parents. If children exist from a previous marriage, the distribution will be altered.
Texas recognizes the theory of community property, which is generally personal or real property acquired during the marriage. If the decedent died during the marriage, special rules apply to the distribution of community property.
If your loved one died with a will that did not dispose of all assets or did not create a contingency plan which named alternate distributees of assets, then a determination of heirship may be necessary.
The assets disposed of in the will would be distributed according to that document and the assets which are not distributed will be distributed to the decedent’s heirs at law.
The executor or administrator must collect and appraise all assets, notify all creditors and beneficiaries, and document the inventory of the estate. If a lawsuit is filed against the estate, the executor or administrator must defend the suit. If taxes are due, the executor or administrator must retain a Certified Public Accountment (CPA) to file a tax return for the estate. Our team does not give tax advice.
Unfortunately, disputes are common when administering an estate. Certain family members might have been “promised” an asset or forgiveness of a loan by the decedent which contradicts or is inconsistent with the will and estate planning documents.
If this happens, it may delay the estate administration process which can result in added expenses for administering the estate. Litigation may be necessary to preserve the estate or prevent the depletion of assets. Distributees may also challenge the mental capacity of the decedent, or challenge whether the estate plan reflects the decedent’s wishes.
A distributee may even assert undue influence, which means the decedent was manipulated by the person who helped create their will, such as a lawyer. If you believe that your loved one’s estate planning documents did not reflect their true wishes, litigation may be necessary.
Why Would You Need a Probate Attorney?
The probate process can be a complicated and emotional experience for your entire family. While some families may go through the probate process themselves, there are many benefits to hiring a probate lawyer.
Here are several reasons why you should hire our firm:
Legal expertise: Probate laws in Texas can be complex. We can help you navigate the intricacies of the probate process while protecting your rights and best interests.
Protect assets: Our legal team can help protect the assets of your loved one’s estate and ensure that they are distributed according to their wishes.
Time-saving: The probate process can be time-consuming and require a lot of paperwork. Our Denton probate attorney can handle all of the necessary paperwork and legal filings, which can save time for the family.
Avoid mistakes: Probate mistakes can be costly and lead to legal disputes. Our Denton probate lawyer can help avoid mistakes and ensure you take the correct steps from start to finish.
Reduce stress: Losing a loved one is already stressful enough. Let us take care of the legal aspects of the estate and help alleviate some of the stress and burden on your family.
Count on Our Trusted Denton Probate Lawyers
At the James H. Horton Law Firm, we currently serve clients from Denton, Dallas, Colin, Tarrant, Wise, and Cooke Counties from our law offices in Denton, Texas. Our estate planning and probate lawyers are very familiar with all local, state and federal court systems, and we are licensed to practice in courtrooms across Texas. Thus, we have the competence and qualifications needed to help you carry out your loved one’s wishes as seamlessly as possible.
Our attorneys have over 4 decades of combined experience representing clients in their legal matters, including estate planning. We also help estate administrators and trustees fulfill their duties and obligations. As a result, we urge you to reach out to our probate attorneys at (940) 382-1561 to get started on resolving your situation right away.