“Probate” is not an evil word, although many people try hard to dodge it since we all want to avoid unnecessary costs if possible. Probate simply refers to the process where the assets from an estate receive authentication from the court to transfer them to the proper heirs or beneficiaries The process is necessary to keep dishonest people from stealing from the heirs or named beneficiaries. Without going through some form of probate the assets stay in the deceased’s name and cannot be of any benefit to the heirs or beneficiaries. Attorney James H. Hard, Jr. in Houston, Texas advises and guides executors or personal representatives in all aspects of probate administration, including:
Locating the will and verifying its authenticity
Serving notice to beneficiaries and creditors
Gathering, identifying and inventorying assets of the deceased person
Determining which assets do not need to go through probate (such as joint accounts and assets to be transferred through provisions of trusts)
Submitting inventory of assets to the probate court
Managing assets, settling claims from creditors and paying final taxes for the deceased
Verifying intended recipients of the remaining assets
Distributing assets and closing the estate
Although the term has negative connotations, probate is a very standard courtroom process for people who’ve been named in a will and who are heirs to the estate not named in a will. Probates, and their accompanying terminology, are different from state to state, but they have the same end goal. After you file a petition, you’ll be appointed by someone to represent the estate. A will lets you decide who does this job; otherwise, they are court-appointed. The process can last a few months, or even a few years, as in the case of larger, more complicated estates. While a surrogate court usually handles the probate, assets located in different states sometimes require probating in each individual state.
When trusts and other advanced asset protection measures are in place, they may keep some assets out of probate. A man named Dacey made a fortune with his book, How to Avoid Probate. Some people following his advice allegedly lost thousands of dollars by not creating trusts when they were necessary to avoid estate taxes. In fact, estates with sizable debts often need to pass through probate to avail those estates of the bankruptcy type of protection offered by the Texas payment of claims procedures available in probate court.
Now with the higher estate tax exemptions available, there are more reasons to simplify planning and avoid probate. Nonetheless, at least some portion of an estate will likely need to go through probate. For example, proceeds from a lawsuit may be paid after death – when it is too late to shield those funds from probate.
Potential clients are welcome to contact James H. Hard, Jr., Attorney at Law, at any stage in the probate and estate administration process, at any of these times:
Before someone’s death
Immediately after the death
After some steps have been taken to prepare to administer the estate
While probate is in process
Early counsel and representation can be efficient and cost-saving in most cases, but in some cases, disputes originating with creditors or beneficiaries may develop along the way. Disputes may delay probate and require legal advice midstream. James H. Hard, Jr., Attorney at Law, can help you overcome such obstacles.
The firm will also address guardianship issues and other special concerns as needed.
To schedule a consultation with a Houston, Texas lawyer for the purpose of learning about probate administration, executor responsibilities, or related issues, call or send an email. You can expect a prompt response and a warm welcome.