Fort Worth Probate Lawyer
Probate is the term that refers to what happens legally when a person dies and how their estate is properly distributed. If the deceased person left a will that clearly names the heirs, probate is the legal process that determines whether the will is valid as well as identifying all the particulars of the deceased's property and belongings. It includes seeing that the property in the will is appraised. These assets can be in the form of actual property, such as houses and cars, as well as stock, bonds, life insurance, cash, jewelry, collections, or other assets. Additionally, the probate process sees to it that before any assets are distributed to the named heirs, any outstanding debts and taxes are paid. How smoothly this actually takes place is largely determined by whether the deceased left a clearly written will. If it was not properly executed, or if he left no will at all, the probate process can be more difficult. A Fort Worth probate attorney who is skilled in probate law can help you navigate through the process and eliminate unnecessary hurdles in order to complete the process, in either simple or highly complex situations.
Probate and Wills
Probate occurs regardless of whether the deceased had a will or not. If he or she had a will, then the probate process initially determines that the deceased's death is valid, and then sees to the administration of the estate, ensuring that outstanding debts and taxes are paid, and then the assets are distributed to the heirs as dictated by the will. If there was no will, then the probate court will see that the assets are distributed under the provisions of Texas law. This could occur even if there was a will, but it was not drafted properly.
Prior to the deceased's assets being distributed, his or her debts must be paid. This includes any estate taxes that are owed, as well as any creditors. An executor of the estate will be required to publish a Notice to Creditors in a newspaper that serves the county where the probate court is located. This is an official notice to any creditors that probate has now been opened, and it also identifies who the executor is (named by the deceased person in the will) and any attorney representing the executor. If a creditor needs payment on a debt, a claim can be filed at this time. It is highly recommended that the executor of the estate utilize the services of a probate attorney to manage these matters. An attorney at Coontz Cochran would, for example, prepare and file the Notice to Creditors for you. Also, within 90 days of the executor being appointed, he or she is required to provide the court with a detailed listing of the deceased's assets.
Problems with Probate: Litigation, Tax Issues, and Will Contests
There can be problems or delays with the probate process. If the estate is large, then settling the estate taxes can be a lengthy process. In some instances, it can take up to a year or even years to get a letter from the IRS (which the executor needs to request) stating that the tax issue is now closed. Obviously, if there is no will, the process to satisfy debts and distribute attests will be more complex. Or if family members or others contest the will, this will add time to the process.
Probate can be smooth and wrapped up without problems, or it can be more complicated and stretch out over several years, based on the situation. You should contact our Fort Worth business attorney to get the information you need about what to expect, and for professional help. Our attorneys at Coontz Cochran have the experience to address any probate situation. Our goal is to help protect rights and see that the proper, efficient and effective probate process proceeds and the estate distributed correctly.