A person’s estate is composed of all items they owned at the time of their death. This includes life insurance policies, cash, real estate, retirement accounts, personal property, stocks and bonds. In the Lone Star state, when a person passes away and their property has not been reassigned to another individual by way of a joint ownership with a right of survivorship, a trust or direct payment to their beneficiaries, Texas distributes this property through probate.
What is Probate?
Probate is the process by which a court legally acknowledges a person’s death and manages the payment of a departed individual’s distribution of their assets and debts. The court must expedite this process and safeguard the interests of all beneficiaries and creditors of the estate.
To commence this process, the person must file an application to the applicable probate court in the county where the decedent lived. The court will then post a notice stating that the application was filed. This gives people the chance to contest the will or administration of the estate. If no one contests the will or administration, a hearing is held where the probate judge will legally recognize the decedent’s death and verify if there is a valid will. If there was no will, an administrator will be appointed, and the state intestacy process will determine the distribution of the assets. If there is a will, the person named executor will be verified, and the beneficiaries will be notified.
After an administrator or executor is appointed, the assets of the estate need to be cataloged and reported to the county clerk within 90 days of the appointment. Additionally, creditors will be identified and any debts will be resolved from the estate assets. Any disputes will be resolved by the probate court judge. Once all steps of the probate process are completed, the assets of the estate can finally be distributed.
To make sure the interests of the estate and its beneficiaries are protected throughout this process, the courts will often require an estate administrator, executor, or personal representative to obtain an estate surety bond. An estate bond, also known as a probate bond, will make sure beneficiaries are compensated for any money lost due deliberately or unintentionally to the executor.
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