Texas courts allow for the probate of a will up to four years after the date of decedent’s death. Upon expiration of four years, a court does not have authority to appoint an executor nor to administer the estate. Generally speaking, the Texas probate process involves collecting a decedent's assets, liquidating liabilities, paying necessary taxes, and distributing property to beneficiaries. This article will discuss the uncontested probate of a will.
Step 1 - File an application for probate: An application for probate and the will must be filed by the executor named in the will in the proper court based on where the decedent resided. In most counties, including Harris County, the executor must be represented by an attorney. There is a waiting period of approximately two weeks after the application is filed where the court provides notice that the application is pending. During this time, the court determines the need to administer the estate and the validity of the will.
Step 2 – Court appoints an executor: The court will appoint an executor to administer the estate after the waiting period ends and after the executor’s attorney schedules a hearing to prove up the will. At the prove up hearing, the executor gives testimony regarding basic facts about the decedent and the will. The executor is responsible for ensuring that decedent’s creditors and expenses are paid, and that the estate is administered according to the will. An executor may be sued by creditors or beneficiaries for failure to properly administer the estate.
Step 3 – File inventory of decedent’s estate assets: The executor must file with the court an inventory of the decedent’s assets at the time of death within 90 days of their appointment. Assets include cash, real estate, stocks, bonds, life insurance, retirement accounts, cars, etc.
Step 4 – Notice to creditors: The executor is required to notify potential creditors of the application for probate by publishing a notice in a newspaper in the county in which the probate proceeding is pending. This notice informs any of decedent’s creditors that a probate proceeding has been opened and provides an opportunity for the creditors to file a claim against the estate to seek payment of the outstanding debt.
Step 5 – Distribute assets to beneficiaries: The executor may distribute the remaining assets of the estate to the beneficiaries of the will once the creditors and expenses are paid.