Probate & Wills

Probate Lawyers in Dallas

Comprehensive Legal Guidance in Texas

When someone passes away, their estate must be formally closed with the government. Many grieving families are overwhelmed by the complex and protracted probate process. If you are concerned about protecting your loved one’s assets or there is some dispute over the authenticity of their will, you may need professional legal assistance to protect your and your family’s interests.

Our Dallas probate attorneys can help you navigate each stage of the estate settlement process and work to efficiently resolve any conflicts that may arise. We are familiar with how to minimize the potentially negative consequences of probate. Our firm is compassionate to the challenges families face in the wake of a loved one’s passing and are committed to guiding our clients through issues of probate as quickly and painlessly as possible.

Schedule a free initial consultation to learn more about how we can protect your interests during probate. Call (972) 564-8860 or contact us online today.

Drafting and Validating a Will in Texas

The last will and testament is a foundational estate planning document that allows the testator to name beneficiaries to their property, a guardian to any minor children, and a personal representative to oversee the probate process. A will must be properly formalized in order to be considered legally enforceable.

The state of Texas recognizes several types of wills, each with its own formalization requirements. A testator can only validate any type of will if they are of sound mind. A will can be “holographic,” or handwritten, if the document is signed and the entirety of its content is written in the testator’s handwriting. In very limited situations, “nuncupative” wills – which are spoken orally – but can be honored if at least 3 witnesses were present to hear the testator’s intentions.

Most wills are attested, meaning they are typewritten and appropriately witnessed. An attested will must be signed in the presence of at least 2 witnesses. This type of will is generally safest, as there are fewer opportunities to dispute its intentions or authenticity. The witnesses can also be called upon to verify the testator was of sound mind at the time of signing and did not create the document under duress.

Our firm can assist you with drafting and validating a last will and testament. We can ensure the will’s language is clear and ambiguous and will achieve all of your objectives.

How Probate Works in Texas

After a person passes away, one of their loved ones must file a motion with the appropriate probate court. A 2-week waiting period will commence and give any interested parties the opportunity to contest the deceased’s will or the administration of their estate.

Once the waiting period has concluded, the court will verify the existence and validity of the last will and testament. If a will does not exist, the deceased’s property will be subject to Texas’s intestacy laws, meaning their property will be distributed amongst their direct living heirs.

At this time, the executor named in a will (should one exist) will be given legal authority over the deceased’s estate. If there is no will, the court will appoint a personal representative to oversee the process.

What Responsibilities Does a Personal Representative Have?

The deceased’s personal representative has many responsibilities in probate, including:

  • Inventorying assets. The personal representative must accurately catalog and appraise the entirety of the deceased’s property to the best of their ability.
  • Notifying beneficiaries and creditors. The personal representative must notify all direct, living heirs of the deceased as well as any beneficiaries named in their will. They must also notify any known creditors of the death and the opportunity to collect.
  • Paying debts. If the deceased had outstanding obligations at the time of their death, the debts must be settled before any assets can be distributed.
  • Filing taxes. The personal representative is responsible for filing the deceased’s final state and federal tax returns.
  • Distributing assets. Once all debts have been paid, any remaining assets must be distributed in accordance with the instructions provided in the deceased’s will.

Why Shouldn’t You Have a Family Member or Close Friend as Your Personal Representative?

Many individuals name family members or close personal friends as their personal representatives. While this can be a meaningful gesture, it also has the potential to burden a loved one with a substantial amount of financial and legal responsibility in an already difficult moment. Our probate attorneys in Dallas can serve as your estate administrator and efficiently handle each phase of the process.

Independent Administrations of Estates in Texas

The state of Texas allows personal representatives to ask for “independent administration” privileges when settling an estate. Many testators will include a provision calling for independent administration in their will, but the procedure can be requested even when there is no will if all beneficiaries agree.

When an estate is managed through independent administration, it is subject to less regulatory oversight. Consequently, independent administrations tend to be cheaper, faster, and more straightforward than the alternative. Among other advantages, the personal representative will not need to ask the court for permission to conduct routine transactions in the process of settling the estate.

Contact us today by calling (972) 564-8860 to schedule your free consultation!

Small Estate Probate Procedures in Texas

Smaller estates can potentially be closed through a substantially more efficient process if it meets certain requirements. If the total value of the deceased’s assets does not exceed the payment required to creditors and family allowances, it likely qualifies as a “small estate.” A family allowance refers to the amount of funds necessary to support the deceased’s spouse and dependents for 1 year. The personal representative of a “small estate” need only show a basic summary of how the estate was distributed.

A separate small estate procedure exists for situations where a deceased’s total assets do not exceed the value needed for family allowances. If all funeral and final medical expenses have already been covered, the personal representative can request a “no administration” order. This procedure effectively skips a majority of the probate and transfers assets directly to the deceased’s spouse and minor children.

Our firm is committed to helping you and your loved ones move through probate as quickly and inexpensively as possible. We can evaluate an estate, determine if it qualifies for any small estate procedures, and file the appropriate requests with the probate court.

Muniment of Title

A personal representative or executor may be unnecessary if you can submit the deceased’s last will and testament as a muniment of title. This procedural move allows a testator’s loved ones to honor the deceased’s final wishes while bypassing a bulk of the expensive probate process.

A muniment of title can be sought in Texas when:

  • The deceased left a valid will
  • The deceased has no outstanding debts (except those secured by real estate, including mortgages)
  • Medicaid has no claim against the deceased

If these conditions are met, a loved one of the deceased will file the last will and testament and request the document be accepted as a muniment of title. If accepted, the will itself can facilitate the legal transfer of documents under the terms contained therein. A personal representative will not be named or appointed, and there will be no need to inventory assets or notify heirs or creditors. We can assess whether an estate may be eligible for a muniment of title and guide you through the process.

Heirship Determination Hearings

Under Texas state law, a deceased person’s assets must be distributed amongst their surviving direct heirs if they pass away without a valid will in place. An heirship determination hearing confirms and legally recognizes the direct heirs of a deceased individual.

An heirship determination hearing will generally involve a representative of the court investigating and verifying the identity of the deceased’s heirs. At least 2 witnesses will also need to typically confirm the identities of the heirs before they will be recognized by the court. Our firm can assist you with initiating and conducting the necessary steps to completing an heirship determination hearing.

Contesting a Will
in Texas

There can sometimes be disputes over the authenticity of a deceased person’s last will and testament, especially if its contents are controversial or exclude certain family members. Under Texas probate law, any interested party can contest a will, and an estate cannot be settled until the dispute has been resolved.

If you believe someone’s will is illegitimate and wish to contest their will, our Dallas probate lawyers can assess your circumstances and determine if you have a case. We are familiar with how these cases are adjudicated and can provide aggressive and capable representation in and out of the courtroom.

Our firm can be reached 24/7 and can assist with matters of probate throughout the state of Texas. Do not hesitate to call (972) 564-8860 or contact us online to discuss your situation with us.

Contact the Firm Today!

 Roquemore Skierski PLLC  is ready to assist you. We are available 24/7.