Texas Probate Overview

Dallas Probate Lawyer

Probate and estate administration are the processes through which the decedent's assets are transferred (and debts are paid) after death. When probate avoidance planning has not been implemented prior to death, a Texas probate court proceeding may be necessary. However, it is not always necessary or desirable to involve a probate court.

There are many procedures available to probate lawyers. Some of which involve a probate court and some do not. We recommend that you contact a Dallas probate lawyer to discuss the specifics of your situation and formulate a cost efficient strategy to properly transfer the decedent's assets. A Dallas probate lawyer in our office would be happy to sit down with you and go over your options.

Procedures Commonly Used by Dallas Probate Lawyers:

The type of probate procedure is dictated by many factors, but whether or not the decedent had a valid will is at the forefront. The first three procedures listed below are used when the decedent dies without a will ("intestate"), while the last three are used when a will exists.

1. Affidavit of Heirship

An affidavit of heirship can be used when the decedent dies intestate (without a will). This mechanism is typically used when the decedent's estate consists of only real estate and/or vehicles. An affidavit of heirship must be signed by two disinterested witnesses (i.e. two people that are familiar with the family history of the decedent and do not stand to gain financially from the estate). Affidavits of heirship are relatively inexpensive.

2. Small Estate Affidavit

If there is no will and the estate is worth less than $50,000 (not including the homestead and certain non-probate assets), the estate may qualify for a small estate affidavit. The cost depends on the number of heirs and the difficulty in reaching them, but is generally much less expensive than a judicial determination of heirship proceeding.

3. Determination of Heirship

When one dies without a will, an heir can request a judicial determination of heirship. After a hearing, the probate court will declare the identity of the Decedent's heirs. The Decedent's property can then be divided accordingly among the heirs. This process does provide finality, but it can be costly.

4. Probate a Will as a Muniment of Title

Probating a will as a muniment of title allows for a streamlined probate process via the probate court. Generally speaking a will is filed with the probate court. The court will recognize the will, but does not appoint an executor. A certified copy of the will along with a copy of the court's order can then be used as a muniment of title to effectively transfer the decedent's property.

5. Independent Administration

An independent administration allows the administrator to administer the estate (pay claims and distribute assets) without getting approval from the court at each turn. The majority of estates are administered through an independent administration.

6. Dependent Administration

A dependent administration is one that requires judge approval before the administrator can take action. The necessity of seeking judicial approval drives the costs of probate up significantly. Depending on the size of the estate, it can cost thousands of dollars more to go through a dependent administration. The purpose of a dependent administration is to protect the rights of the beneficiaries (the people who will receive the assets). Unfortunately, a dependent administration often uses up much of the estate in administrative costs. Typically, a properly drafted Will authorizes a less costly independent administration.

Contact Us

Our Dallas probate lawyer understands that you may be facing one of the most difficult times in your life and we will address your needs with compassion. If you need assistance probating a Will in Dallas or surrounding areas, or would like more information about the probate process in general, contact our Dallas probate lawyer today.