PROBATING AN ESTATE
With a Will: The probate process will determine if there is a valid Will, in which case that document will direct the distribution. If there is a valid Will, then the named executor can apply to the court to have the Will admitted to probate, and for Letters Testamentary, which give the executor the authority to settle a loved one’s affairs.
Without a Will: In the absence of a Will, the State of Texas has legislated a default distribution system. If there is not a valid Will, then an interested individual can apply to the Probate Court to be appointed as an administrator of the estate. Letters of Administration are issued by the court, and this document gives you the authority to settle a loved one’s affairs.
ALTERNATIVES TO PROBATE
For small estates, Texas has a less expensive and fairly straightforward probate process. There are alternatives to formal probate as well.
Ownership of some property can be transferred by affidavit, and when certain conditions are met, a Will can be admitted to probate as a muniment of title only, without the need for full administration of the estate. We always try to find the most economical resolution to our clients’ situations.
Sometimes the process does not go smoothly. The pain of loss can cause childhood rivalries to reemerge. Sometimes people feel like the Will treats them unfairly, that the testator lacked legal capacity to execute the Will or was unduly influenced, or previously unknown relatives appear to claim their share of the estate. The resulting conflict carries a cost... both emotionally and financially.
What you need in this situation is an attorney with the experience to tell you what your options are, and to deal with delicate relationships with a level of diplomacy that increases the likelihood of you achieving your objectives.
COST OF PROBATE
A thorough Estate Plan is an economical way to avoid a significant part of the expense (and hassle) of probate. Without a plan, probate can be time-consuming and expensive...and in some cases, very expensive.
We offer different payment arrangements, depending on the nature of your case:
Flat Fee: Often we can offer flat fees for certain parts of the probate process. You will know in advance how much these will be, so this gives you much more certainty.
Hourly Rates: Occasionally probate will take unexpected turns and we will charge you hourly rates for that work. We will discuss this with you in advance of starting the work.
Contingency: This option is good if you do not have money up front or if the case is complicated. It frequently happens that the value of an estate is in property or retirement accounts that cannot be used until the probate process is complete. In those cases, attorney fees are based on the size of the recoverable estate and payment is not due until the estate is settled. Because we assume significant risk and have no assurance that settlement will result in payment at all, this option is the most expensive.
Pro Bono: We occasionally do work for no charge but these cases are referred through an organization called Legal Aid of North West Texas. They can be reached at 1-(888) 529-5277, Monday - Friday from 9am - 4pm.
Call our office for a free consultation to discuss the options for your particular case.
Settling an estate can be an overwhelming task at a difficult time. We will help you determine where you stand and how best to get what is rightfully yours, while at the same time being sensitive to the loss suffered by all parties involved.