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The Process:

The following is a summary of the probate process in Texas. The probate process begins with the executor selecting a qualified attorney.  The attorney would then decide which probate proceeding would be appropriate. The attorney would begin by filing an application for probate, appearing at the court hearing, seeking to secure a court order admitting the will to probate.  When the bond is posted (or waived) and the executor’s oath is filed, the court clerk will issue letters testamentary. The letters testamentary are the executor’s credentials, a certificate from the court informing the public that the person seeking access to the decedent’s funds and information is legally authorized to access such information.  The executor’s first duties include gathering information and gaining control of the decedent’s estate assets.  The executor, with the attorney’s help, must then prepare and file for the court’s approval an “inventory, appraisement and list of claims.”  The purpose is to allow creditors to see the extent of the estate’s assets, so they can decide whether bringing a claim is worthwhile. 

Texas Probate laws also require that a notice be published in a local newspaper announcing the executor’s appointment.  The notice also tells the public that anyone with a claim against said estate must present it in a timely manner.

Some people die without debt, and some owe money on credit cards, auto loans, mortgages, etc.  Any secured debtor (such as a mortgage company) must be given a written notice from the executor.  If there are unsecured creditors (such as credit-card issuers), the executor can wait for them to submit a claim.  When notice is sent to an unsecured creditor, that creditor has four months to file an official claim or the debt is barred from collection.

Claims must be accepted or rejected by the executor.  A claim that is barred by the statute of limitations would be rejected.  Any creditor whose claim is rejected by the executor may file suit in the probate court to have the court rule on the validity of its claim.

If there is clearly enough money in the estate to pay all the claims, they must be paid in full. If the estate does not have adequate funds to pay everyone in full, they are categorized into eight different classes. Class 1 claims are paid first, class 2 next, etc.  When several creditors all have the same class (like credit-card issuers), they are each paid a pro-portion of the amounts owed from the estate’s available funds.

Assets that remain after debts and taxes are cleared will then be distributed to the persons named in the will.  Ideally, the executor can distribute assets promptly, but sometimes the process of paying claims and clearing taxes can take months. 

Contact The Law Offices of J.D. Garza for any questions regarding probating your loved one's estate.