Will contests – probate administration & probate litigation
Most estates must go through probate before estate property may be distributed, unless estate planning was done through a trust or a property was titled in beneficiaries’ names before the estate owner died.
Probate is a court-administered procedure that makes decisions regarding estates, which include:
- Determination of a valid will
- Identification of the decedent’s assets and property
- Opportunity for creditors of the estate to file claims
- Payment of creditors
- Payment of taxes
- Payment of estate administration fees
- Distribution of the remaining assets to beneficiaries according to the will
- If no will, division and distribution of assets according to state laws
The property of an estate includes the total of all property and assets, including real estate, stocks, bonds, bank accounts, annuities and insurance policies, along with physical possessions such as furniture and cars.
Timeline for Probate in Texas
Probate in Texas involves simple administration under the court once the will has been determined valid and an executor has been established for the estate. Compared to some states, Texas probate is less costly, and an estate can be closed within far less time. Texas probate procedure requires a minimum of one court appearance before the judge by an estate representative. After notices have been made to beneficiaries and creditors regarding the distribution of the estate, creditors have six months to file claims with the administrator and court. It usually takes six months to a year to probate the estate and less time when no debts are owed. If there are no taxes, title issues or disputes between beneficiaries, the estate may be resolved even more quickly.
While probate is a relatively simple process for estates, contested wills compound matters and add considerable complexity to the probate process.
A contested will is one in which legal action is brought to challenge the validity or terms of the will. The following examples are grounds for contesting a will:
A more recent will has been found, which nullifies the earlier will.
The decedent was incapacitated when he or she drafted the will.
Another person caused undue influence on the decedent when he or she drafted the will.
The will was improperly executed, such as improper notarization, signature or witnesses.
Signatures were forged (decedent, notary or witnesses’ signatures).
During contested wills, relationships among the beneficiaries often are strained by emotions. Experienced legal counsel and representation can help resolve conflict and move the probate process forward.