Image source

When a person dies, his property needs to be transferred to the beneficiaries through a legal process called probate.

It is a process in which a court recognizes the person's death and oversees their payment of debts, taxes, and distribution of the remaining property among the heirs.

The process is often new to first-time heirs, and many beneficiaries wonder if they need a lawyer to probate a will in Texas. Under the Texas law, you do not need an attorney to probate a will in Texas. For the majority of cases, the executor can interact with the court system without involving the services of a probate attorney.

However, it’s pertinent to mention that the probate proceeding can sometimes become complicated, requiring extensive knowledge of a probate lawyer. Even if a probate lawyer is needed, you can hire them for specific issues without paying them for the entire process.

If you have decided to probate a will yourself in Texas, here is the process that you need to follow.

The probate process:

Probating a will yourself falls under the independent administration in Texas. Independent administration is possible only if the deceased person stated in the will that the executor (the person who oversees the probate) does not need court supervision. But even then, occasional appearances before a judge and some court intervention may be part of the process.

Below, we outline a step by step process that must be followed to navigate through the probate process.

Open the probate:

You will need to take the original copy of the will of the deceased person to the appropriate court. The clerk will provide you specific forms to fill out in order to open the probate. The forms will ask for certain information about the deceased person, such as when and where the person passed away, the names of his or her children, marital status, and an account of the decedent's property.

You don’t need an attorney to fill out these forms unless you do not understand what they instruct you to do. Check the box that signifies an independent administration and file both the forms and the court's will.

Notify the beneficiaries:

After you have submitted the probate application and the original will at the court, you'll need to wait till a judge officially appoints you as an executor. This is usually two weeks after filing the probate application because there is a waiting period during which the court posts a notice that notifies that the will has been submitted at the court for probate. The waiting period gives everyone time to object to the will or the appointment of the executor.

After you have been officially appointed as an executor, you'll be required to notify all the heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors. You’ll need a clear understanding of who the beneficiaries are and make attempts to find out the creditors. Place a notice in the newspaper advising people that the person has died and the will is in probate.

Additionally, notify the creditors such as mortgage holders or lenders to submit a claim for payment from the decedent's fund. You'll assess the claims for their veracity as you receive them.

Changing the ownership of assets:

With the court's appointment, you will be able to change the legal ownership of the assets left by the decedent. You can change the ownership of simple assets, such as bank accounts and property, yourself. However, assets with complex ownership such as royalties and businesses will require the services of an experienced attorney.

Making payments:

Finally, you will need to pay taxes for the deceased person and their estate, settle debts, and pay all the expenses before distributing the assets among the beneficiaries. The executor is responsible for ensuring that all the expenses and taxes are paid, and the assets are distributed appropriately among the heirs.

Final hearing:

After making all the payments, you will need to prepare a final accounting of all the financial transactions you have made. This should include the debts, taxes, funeral expenses, the cost of newspaper notices and mailings that you made on behalf of the estate.

It is advised to consult a professional attorney at this point. Search for probate specialists near me to find out local probate experts and consult the actions you have taken to avoid costly mistakes.

Notify the beneficiaries and the court that the probate is complete. Appear in court at the assigned time for the hearing. If the documents are complete, and there is no error, the judge will issue an order that will close the estate. 

Final Thoughts:

There is no clear answer to whether you need an attorney to probate a will. Most of the process is simple, and you will be able to do it yourself. However, certain situations may arise where the services of an experienced probate lawyer can be useful.

Related post: U.S. immigration options for South Africans

Author Bio
Audrey Throne has an ongoing affair with the words that capture readers’ attention. Her passion for writing dates back to her pre-blogging days. She loves to share her thoughts related to business, technology, health and fashion.

Find her on Twitter: @audrey_throne