Texas LGBTQ+ Probate Lawyer
You’ve probably heard the term “probate” before. However, if you’ve never been involved in the process, you may not know exactly what it entails. Or maybe you’ve heard that it can be a long, drawn-out exercise which can be overwhelming. Whatever your level of familiarity, you can seek help from a Texas LGBTQ+ probate lawyer. Attorneys often help individuals who are executors or administrators. However, they also work on behalf of those who expect to benefit from a will. If you have concerns about whether the deceased’s assets will be distributed according to their wishes, you can also seek legal advice.
Naturally, the probate process can be very challenging for LGBT families and any other individuals involved. Not only can some aspects be difficult to understand but emotions often run high. One individual may feel left out by the deceased or someone may challenge the validity of the will. At a time when everyone is experiencing loss and grief, it can all seem like too much to bear. However, LGBTQ+ probate attorneys in Texas act as objective third parties. While they act with empathy, they also bring a wealth of legal experience and knowledge to the process.
If you want to know more about probate, keep reading. If you need specific advice about your situation, call Eddington & Worley today at 855-949-0056. You pay nothing for the consultation and are able to speak directly with one of our expert attorneys about the specifics of your probate matter.
What Exactly is Probate?
Let’s start at the beginning. Probate refers to the process of legally recognizing a person’s death, paying their debts and distributing their assets appropriately. The court facilitates this activity and ensures the creditors’ and beneficiaries’ interests are protected. If the decedent’s estate is large and/or complex, the process can take a long time. In the simplest cases, it can take about six months. Regardless of how long it takes, most people get overwhelmed and they need the help of an attorney.
Do I Really Need to Hire a Probate Lawyer?
If you are the executor of a will or administrator of an estate, you have a lot of responsibility. Many people who agree to serve in these capacities don’t know exactly what the role entails. Even if they do, they don’t fully understand the laws which govern probate administration. As a result, they are often surprised when the process is a lot more complicated than they assumed.
The good news is that the attorneys at Eddington & Worley can offer extensive support throughout the entire procedure. This assistance is invaluable if you need help fulfilling your duties in accordance with the law.
We can also help you if you are not an executor or administrator, but you have an interest in the process. You may be an heir who wants to ensure that your inheritance is being managed correctly. You may also want to ensure that you get your share as soon as possible. We can help you confirm that the administrator or executor is doing exactly what they’re supposed to. If you encounter problems, we can help you take the necessary actions. Our Texas LGBTQ+ probate lawyer can also help relatives who are concerned about the validity of the deceased’s last will and testament. If you have grounds to challenge the will, we can assist you in doing so.
What Makes Up an Individual’s Estate?
Everything that an individual owned at the time they died makes up their estate. This includes:
- Real estate
- Personal property like vehicles, jewelry, and art
- Life insurance policies
- Retirement accounts
- Stocks and bonds
Under Texas law, all these assets must be totaled and then the decedent’s debts must be paid. Only then can the remaining assets be distributed to beneficiaries. If there is a valid will, this must be followed. If there is no will, Texas’ intestate succession laws will apply.
It is important to note that not all assets go through the probate process. Life insurance policies and retirement accounts which name a beneficiary will be excluded. All these beneficiaries need to do is contact the company which issued the policy for advice on how to proceed.
Other assets which don’t pass through probate are:
- Property held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship
- Community property with right of survivorship.
The joint owner simply becomes the sole owner upon the death of the other owner.
Similarly, if some assets were in a trust, these aren’t considered part of the estate. The named trustee is responsible for distributing those assets to the respective beneficiaries.
How Do You Get Started with the Probate Process?
To probate a will in Texas, someone must file an application in probate court. The application must include the date of death, the address of the deceased and the names of the heirs. The court also requires a copy of the will. After the executor submits these, the county clerk is responsible for posting a notice at the courthouse. This lets the public know that someone filed such an application. After two weeks, you can have your matter heard before a probate judge.
During the hearing, the judge will determine whether the person identified as the executor is qualified to serve. The executor is required to gather all the assets, secure the property, pay debts. and distribute the remaining assets. In cases where there was no will, the judge will name someone to serve as the executor. Usually, the court will require the executor to have an attorney. This is because the executor needs to act in the best interest of all the heirs and beneficiaries. Even if the court doesn’t make this mandatory, it is still advisable given all that has to be done.
The judge is also responsible for determining if the will is valid. There are many legal formalities which must be met, and the judge can deny the will if something is incorrect. If the judge finds the will to be valid, they will admit it into probate. The executor will then be issued Letters Testamentary so the executors can wind up the decedent’s financial affairs. Let’s look at some of the elements of probate in more detail.
Collecting Estate Property
Before anything else can be done, the executor must identify all the property belonging to the estate. They need to go through the deceased’s documents, find their financial accounts and figure out whether they owed anyone money. They must also ensure that they safeguard any physical property so it doesn’t get stolen or damaged.
After gathering the property, the executor is responsible for filing an inventory of the assets in probate court. The executor must do this within 90 days of the date of appointment. The executor may also have to get professional appraisals for high-value items like jewelry and property. Generally, anything that you wouldn’t dispose of in a yard sale should be appraised so you know its true value.
Finalizing Payment of Creditors
Every deceased person will have bills even if they are small things like cell phone charges and utility bills. In some cases, they may have large outstanding loans. The executor must notify the creditors that the individual died and a probate attorney can draw up a Notice to Creditors. This identifies the executor and provides the address of their lawyer. It also gives creditors a deadline by which they must file their claim with the estate for payment. This notice must be published in a local newspaper in Texas.
Not all creditors receive the same treatment under Texas law. For instance, the executor’s attorney must receive their payment for legal fees first. If the decedent’s estate had enough cash, it usually pretty easy to pay the creditors. However, if there isn’t enough money, some of the assets will need to be sold to pay the bills. This can get complicated since these assets may be intended for a beneficiary who really needs them. An attorney can help with determining which assets to sell so no beneficiary is disadvantaged.
If the decedent had a valid will, executors are usually independent executors. This means they can pay creditors or sell assets without seeking the court’s permission. They don’t have to post a surety bond to guarantee that they will do what the deceased wanted. This type of administration is usually less difficult and less costly. On the other hand, if the individual died intestate, the court must supervise the probate process. The executor has to seek permission from the court before taking any steps. However, if all the heirs agree, the court can create an independent administration. This makes things a little easier.
It is not uncommon for disputes to arise during the probate process. Sometimes, they crop up over the matter of who should serve as executor. Family members may disagree with the person the deceased identified. On the other hand, if there was no will, multiple people may fight over who should serve as executor.
Other disputes come up when someone challenges the authenticity of the will. A relative may argue that the deceased didn’t have the mental capacity to draft the will. They may even allege that someone coerced them to change an earlier will. In these cases, a judge will listen to the testimony of the various parties and study the evidence. In some cases, one will can be set aside and a previous one may take effect. In other cases, the estate may be distributed in keeping with intestate succession laws.
This is the last step in the probate process. The executor must distribute the assets as set out in the will. They must work with the beneficiaries to decide on how they will take their share. If some of the assets have to be sold, the executor must coordinate the sales. If the estate owes state or federal taxes after selling certain assets, the executor must pay them.
Areas We Serve
If you are the executor of an estate or a beneficiary and you need legal help, we’ll assist you. at Eddington & Worley, you’ll find an experienced Texas LGBTQ+ probate lawyer who will work on your behalf. We will explain the probate process clearly, answer all your questions, and guide you each step of the way. As you can see from what we’ve discussed, probate can be complicated. Issues may arise which you never saw coming. When this happens, you’ll definitely need help from an attorney who is familiar with estate law. We serve clients in:
Call Our Texas LGBTQ+ Probate Lawyer for a Risk-Free Consultation
Call Eddington & Worley today if you have any questions regarding probate. It doesn’t matter whether you are an executor, a beneficiary or a concerned relative. We know the death of a loved one causes deep emotional pain and family disputes can make things even worse. Our attorneys bring an objective approach and many years of experience to each probate case. We will make the legal aspects of probate much easier and help you avoid missteps. All you need to do is contact us for a risk-free professional consultation so we can discuss your case.