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Probate Attorney in San Antonio, TX

Settling the final affairs of a deceased person and distributing assets to heirs can involve many complicated procedures. According to a 2018 EstateExec survey, on average, it takes nearly 570 hours of effort to settle an estate. When a person dies in Texas, settling the decedent's estate may require the surviving family members to trudge through the probate process.

James P Peterson has devoted his career to offering experienced legal services and guiding heirs and fiduciaries throughout the complexities of the probate process. As a knowledgeable Texas estate planning attorney, he can review your unique circumstances and enlighten you about what to expect during the probate proceedings. Additionally, James P Peterson can help you understand your roles and responsibilities as an executor and guide you through every step of the probate administration process. He is proud to serve clients throughout San Antonio, Texas, and the surrounding areas of New Braunfels and Boerne.

Probate in Texas

Probate is a court-supervised process that often takes place when a person dies. The probate process involves gathering and assessing the deceased person's assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to rightful heirs. The estate assets may be distributed in accordance with the provisions of the will or Texas intestate succession laws (if there is no will).

Which Assets Generally Go Through Probate?

Common assets that go through probate in Texas include:

  • Assets owned entirely in the decedent's name, such as cars and real estate properties

  • Personal belongings, such as jewelry, household items, clothing, and collections

  • A share of property that is owned as "tenants in common"

Jointly owned assets, however, may be transferred to the surviving owner if the asset has "survivorship" language. Likewise, assets with valid beneficiary designations or assets put in a trust do not go through probate, (life insurance proceeds and retirement proceeds).

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How Probate Affects Your Surviving Family Members

Probate is usually required to administer a decedent's estate and settle the person's final affairs. Here are some ways probate might impact your surviving family members and loved ones:

  • Probate can be expensive if the will is contested. Consequently, it will reduce the size or amount of estate assets left to be inherited by family members. However, the vast majority of probate cases are handled on a routine basis at a competitive price.

  • Probate can be time-consuming. There may be long delays before assets are finally distributed to inheritors. However, the whole process can take less than a month, (but usually takes 2-3 months).

  • All decedent's assets and bank accounts are frozen during the probate process. Until probate is finalized, your surviving loved ones may not have any access to your funds and assets.

  • Your estate and other assets may be subject to taxes, including state and federal estate or inheritance taxes, but probably not if your assets are less than ten million dollars.

  • Probate is a matter of public record and may affect your loved ones' privacy.

Types of Texas Probate

In the state of Texas, there are two types of probate. These include:

Independent Administration of Estates

Independent probate administration requires the court to appoint an executor or administrator who will work independently and without the court's supervision. Here, there is little court involvement, and the executor doesn't need the court's permission or pre-approval before taking a step. The probate process is less costly and can be concluded in less time.

The estate is only eligible for an Independent Administration if the will so provides or all heirs agree in writing.

Dependent Administration of Estates

When it comes to dependent probate administration, the executor or administrator relies on the court to oversee the entire probate administration process. The court is more involved, and the executor is required to post a bond. Compared to independent probate administration, dependent probate administration is more expensive and time-consuming.

The estate is subject to a Dependent Administration if there is no valid will or there is no unanimous agreement among the heirs.

What is the Probate Process Like?

The Texas probate process starts when the executor named in the will files the documents in the probate court in the county where the decedent lived. Next, the probate court will schedule a hearing before the probate judge, where the executor will be legally appointed to administer the estate.

Role of the Executor or Administrator

Once appointed, the executor or administrator will do the following:

  • Gather and evaluate the decedent's assets

  • File a sworn inventory and appraisement

  • Notify heirs and beneficiaries named in the Will

  • Inform creditors of the probate proceedings

  • Collect all decedent's income, including claims, dividends, rents, interests, and debts owed

  • Pay the valid claims to creditors and recognize the rights of others

  • Settle all debts with creditors

  • File and pay estate taxes

  • Prepare and file the deceased person's final income tax returns

  • Distribute remaining estate property to rightful inheritors

Work With a Knowledgeable Estate Planning Attorney

The Texas probate process involves several complexities. Moreover, acting ethically and diligently as an executor requires having a clear understanding of your legal and financial responsibilities. If you have been appointed as an executor, you need to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney for detailed guidance and to help you navigate key decisions.

Attorney James P. Peterson is dedicated to offering prompt, professional, and compassionate legal guidance to heirs, fiduciaries, and executors in the matters of estate planning and probate. As your dedicated counsel, he can evaluate the details of the estate plan, help you understand your responsibilities as an executor, and offer a checklist to guide you through the probate administration process. Ultimately, he is here to assist you and your family during this difficult time.

Probate Attorney
Serving San Antonio, Texas

If you need proper guidance understanding the Texas probate process, contact James P. Peterson, Attorney at Law, to schedule a simple case evaluation. James P Peterson can offer you the comprehensive legal counsel, assistance, and reliable advocacy you need to make informed decisions going forward. He is proud to serve individuals and fiduciaries across San Antonio, New Braunfels, Boerne, and the rest of Texas.