Information about Probate in Austin Texas
We help people deal with legal issues after a loved one has passed away. This can be a very trying time, and it is very rewarding to be of help to these families. Read on to find answers to some commonly asked questions regarding probate:
What is Probate?
Probate of a Will and administering the estate is a process to transfer title of assets, deal with unresolved issues, and wrap up affairs of a deceased person. The Texas probate process is fairly straight forward and typically involves very limited Court involvement. Normally, an "Application to Probate Will" is filed with the Probate Court in the County where the deceased person lived.
Is Probate expensive?
Probate is not usually an expensive process in Texas. Yes, lawyers do charge for this service. However, Texas is a great place to die - not just because I am from Texas!! Our Probate process is not as expensive as other states.
Can I Probate an Estate without a Will?
Yes. However, the process becomes much more detailed. A court will need to determine who are the heirs of the deceased person. The process is called a "Determination of Heirship." There is more information below about this process.
What if I can not find the original Will, only a copy?
A copy of a Will can be probated; however, you will need to prove that the original Will was not revoked.
Do I have to go to Court to probate a Will?
Yes, if you are going to be the Executor of the Estate. Court interaction may be limited to one appearance in front of the Judge. Most Wills identify an "Independent Executor" who is charged with handling the affairs of the deceased according to the terms of the Will.
What are Letters Testamentary?
"Letters Testamentary" are an offical document issued by a Court to the Executor of an Estate. This document authorizes the Executor to act for the Estate. Click here to see the Travis County Probate Court's handout on probating a Will in Travis County, Texas.
What is a Muniment of Title?
When a person dies with a Will and there are no unpaid debts, except debts secured by a lien on real property (like a mortgage), there may be no need for administering the estate. Technically, the Will is submitted to a Court to be probated but the Court does not appoint an executor or administrator, and no formal Court ordered or authorized administration occurs. Muniment of Title is a very simple and efficient method of working through a Will. In short, a Judge basically declares the Will to serve as evidence of title for whatever assets there may be. Muniment of Title is a great, inexpensive, and fairly rapid method of wrapping up an estate with a Will. Note that it can only be used if there is one beneficiary such as where a spouse dies leaving everything to his or her spouse.
When can I use a Small Estate Affidavit?
Sometimes, an estate is small enough that it can be handled with a small estate affidavit. In general, this process can be used when there is no Will and no real property other than homestead. The gross value of the assets can not exceed $50,000.00. There is a little more to determining if this is the appropriate method for a small estate, but this can be an effective and inexpensive manner of closing a small estate.
What is an Application to Declare Heirship - No Will?
Many times people die without a Will. When someone dies without a Will and has real or personal property that needs to be settled by the family, an Application to Declare Heirship is filed with a Court. Essentially, the process identifies all proper heirs of the deceased. This can also be used when a person has some extra property that is not disposed of with a Will. One common misconception is that the State of Texas or some other government entity will actually take your money and assets when you do not have a Will. This is not generally true, however, the property will be distributed according to state law. (Click here to see a chart of property distribution without a Will in Texas) A Declaration to Determine Heirship will establish who are the heirs to receive the property. Click here to see the Travis County Probate handout on heirship determinations.