Bellaire Texas Probate and Probate Litigation Lawyers

Probate and Probate Litigation in Bellaire, TX

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Probate is a critical legal procedure that ensures the orderly distribution of assets and settling of debts after a loved one’s passing. As experienced Texas estate planning lawyers, we understand that this process can be difficult and emotionally taxing. That’s why we’re here to guide you every step of the way.

At Norris & Golubovic, PLLC, our mission is to empower you with the knowledge and support necessary to ensure successful probate. Whether you’re a concerned family member seeking to honor your loved one’s wishes or an individual looking to secure your estate’s future, we are dedicated to providing you with sound legal counsel and compassionate assistance.

Why Hire Us For Your Probate Needs?

Navigating probate requires experience, empathy, and a keen understanding of Texas estate laws. Norris & Golubovic, PLLC stands as your trusted partner, offering unparalleled support and guidance. Here’s why you should consider hiring us:

  • With a proven track record in estate planning and probate law, our team brings extensive experience to the table. We’ve successfully guided numerous clients through the probate process, ensuring their interests are protected.
  • Probate laws are ever-changing. Our attorneys are well-versed in Texas probate regulations, offering you the benefit of accurate and up-to-date legal guidance.
  • Probate can be time-sensitive. We work diligently to streamline proceedings, ensuring that all required documents are properly prepared and submitted, minimizing delays and complications.
  • We understand the importance of clear communication. Our team is committed to keeping you informed, answering your questions, and guiding you through each step of probate.
  • Challenges can arise during probate, from disputes among beneficiaries to complex asset distribution. Norris & Golubovic, PLLC excels at finding practical solutions, minimizing friction, and ensuring a smooth process.
  • Our firm has cultivated relationships with professionals such as appraisers, accountants, and financial advisors. This network allows us to provide comprehensive assistance, addressing all aspects of your probate needs.

When you choose Norris & Golubovic, PLLC, you’re choosing a dedicated team that combines legal excellence with compassion. Let us handle the legal measures, allowing you to focus on honoring your loved one’s memory and ensuring a seamless transition during this challenging time.

Probate in Texas- an Overview

When a loved one passes away, ensuring the proper transfer of their assets becomes a critical endeavor. Probate is a court-supervised procedure designed to facilitate the legal transfer of these assets to the rightful heirs or beneficiaries. The process serves as a safeguard, ensuring that the wishes of the deceased are honored and their property is distributed according to the law. 

Probate encompasses several essential tasks:

  • Proving Will Validity: One primary purpose of probate is to establish the validity of the deceased’s Will. This involves presenting the Will to the court, validating its authenticity, and confirming that it accurately represents the wishes of the deceased.
  • Appointing Estate Representatives: In situations where a valid Will is present, the court appoints an executor—someone chosen by the deceased—to oversee the estate’s administration. If no Will exists, the court appoints an administrator to perform similar duties.
  • Inventory and Appraisal: A thorough inventory and appraisal of the estate’s assets are conducted. This step ensures that the estate’s value is accurately determined, providing a foundation for proper asset distribution and debt settlement.
  • Debt and Tax Management: The probate process includes settling outstanding debts and taxes owed by the deceased. This encompasses not only personal debts but also estate taxes that may apply. Proper debt and tax management is crucial to ensuring a fair distribution of assets.
  • Asset Distribution: The distribution of assets is carried out based on the terms of the Will. If the deceased left a valid Will, the court ensures that assets are distributed according to their wishes. In cases where there is no Will, state law dictates the distribution process.

The value of estate assets determines whether the probate process is required. If the total assets or real property exceed $75,000, probate is likely necessary. However, if the asset value is less than $75,000 (excluding a homestead), a probate alternative known as a Small Estate Affidavit can be considered.

Initiating Probate

While any beneficiary or creditor can initiate probate, it’s typically the responsibility of the person named in the Will as the Executor. They get everything started by filing the original Will with the probate court and submitting an application. If no Will exists, a close relative who expects to inherit from the estate usually files a Petition to begin the probate proceedings. This individual is often the surviving spouse, child, parent, or sibling of the deceased.

The Role of the Executor

The Executor is responsible for managing the probate process, ensuring the proper distribution of assets, and settling debts. If the designated party cannot or does not wish to serve, or if there is no valid Will, any interested family member or individual can petition the court to become the administrator of the estate.

Texas law outlines a payment schedule for the Executor, based on a percentage of the assets within the probate estate. This compensation is intended to fairly compensate the Executor for their time and effort.

Serving as an Executor or Administrator is a significant responsibility. The Texas Estates Code contains intricate legal rules and procedures that must be adhered to during the probate process. Failure to comply with these rules and deadlines could result in personal liability for any losses incurred by the estate.

At Norris & Golubovic, PLLC, we understand that dealing with probate can be overwhelming, especially during times of grief. We’re here to ensure that your loved one’s wishes are respected, assets are protected, and the transition is as smooth as possible. Contact us for caring guidance tailored to your unique circumstances.

Texas Probate Frequently Asked Questions

What’s so bad about probate in Texas…and what should I do next?

Many residents in Harris County have heard that probate is bad news. It tends to be very expensive, it’s time-consuming, and it’s also a public process.

The easiest way to avoid the probate process is to plan; but if you are now in a situation where you must go through probate courts to finalize the estate of a loved one, the best thing you can do is get educated and get help to complete the process as quickly, and cost-effectively, as possible.

How is a Probate Started in Texas?

Although any beneficiary or creditor can initiate probate, normally the person named in the Will as the Executor starts the process by filing the original Will with the court and filing an application with the probate court. If there is no Will, typically a close relative of the decedent who expects to inherit from the estate will file the Petition. This is normally the surviving spouse, a child, parent, or sibling.

How is the Executor Chosen?

If the decedent had a Will, the person named in the Will as the Executor will serve, if eligible. If that person is unable or unwilling to serve as Executor, or if there is no Will, then any interested family member or person can petition the Court to be the administrator of the Estate.

How does the Executor Get Paid?

Texas law provides that the Executor gets paid according to a compensation schedule, based on a percentage of the assets of the probate estate.

Could I Be Held Personally Liable for Making a Mistake as an Executor?

Being an Executor (or, Administrator) is a big responsibility. Texas’s Estates Code contains pages upon pages of complex legal rules and procedures that an Executor must follow during the probate. Also, there are certain deadlines that an Executor must meet in filing papers with the Court. If an Executor violates any of these rules, they can be held personally liable for losses to the estate.

How long does Probate take?

The length of time of a probate will depend on several factors. It usually takes a minimum of 12 months and can take up to two years or even longer for complex cases.

How much does Probate Cost?

Probate legal fees are set by state law Texas Estates Code Chapter 352 and are determined as a 5% commission on the cash received by or paid out by the Personal Representative. For larger and more complicated estates, the Personal Representative may apply for, and the probate court may allow, an alternative compensation scheme.

There are also court costs and filing fees, ad litem attorney fees, document certification and recording fees, and property appraisal fees.

My Loved One Had a Trust. Will We Need To Go Through Probate?

In many instances, probate may not be necessary if your loved one’s assets are held within a trust. However, it’s not uncommon for individuals with trusts to assume all matters are resolved when they actually aren’t. We often see bereaved families entering our office after discovering the need for probate despite the presence of a trust.

Why does this happen? In many cases, trusts were established years ago and remained untouched; subsequently acquired assets were not properly transferred into its name. This underlines the critical importance of maintaining regular reviews of your estate plan and asset ownership. Such diligence ensures that the planning you undertake now remains effective in the future.

What Assets are Subject to Probate?

Property owned solely in the name of the deceased person is subject to probate. On the other hand, assets that pass by means of title or bank accounts titled as ‘transfer on death’ are not.  The transfer of assets by beneficiary designation, such as life insurance and some retirement accounts, is also exempt from probate.

There are, however, situations in which property that would otherwise go by title or beneficiary designation may be subject to probate. Talk to an attorney if you have questions about your specific situation.

How is the Distribution of the Estate Handled if There is No Will?

If no Will or trust exists, the distribution of the estate is governed by the Texas Estates Code rules of intestacy. These regulations outline a specific order in which the deceased person’s estate will be distributed:

  • The surviving spouse is the first in line to inherit the estate’s assets. If there are no surviving children, parents, or siblings, the entire estate may pass to the spouse.
  • If there is no surviving spouse, the deceased’s children are next in line to inherit. They will share the estate’s assets equally. If any child has predeceased the decedent but has living children (the decedent’s grandchildren), those grandchildren will inherit their parent’s share.
  • In the absence of a surviving spouse or children, the estate would then go to the parents of the deceased. Both parents would typically inherit an equal share if both are alive; if only one parent is alive, they would inherit the entire estate.
  • If no spouse, children, or parents survive, the estate’s distribution moves to the deceased person’s siblings. If there are multiple living siblings, they would share the assets equally.

These guidelines serve as a framework to ensure the orderly distribution of an estate when no Will or trust is in place. However, it’s important to note that these default rules might not align with your personal preferences or family dynamics. To ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes and priorities, it’s advisable to work with an experienced estate planning attorney who can help you create an estate plan that reflects your intentions.

What is Muniment of Title?

Muniment of Title is an exclusive probate procedure found in Texas. It refers to a simplified and efficient method of transferring title to real property (such as land or real estate) from a deceased individual to their heirs or beneficiaries without the need for a full probate administration. This process is typically used when the deceased person had a valid Last Will and Testament.

In Texas, the Muniment of Title process is available under certain circumstances, including when:

  • The decedent left a valid Will.
  • The Will meets all the legal requirements for validity.
  • There is no need to administer the estate for other purposes, such as paying debts or managing assets.

The Muniment of Title process involves presenting the decedent’s Will to the court along with a Petition for the Probate of Will as a Muniment of Title. If the court approves the petition and finds that all necessary conditions are met, it can order the distribution of the deceased person’s real property to the designated heirs or beneficiaries listed in the Will.

This process is often chosen when the estate primarily consists of real estate and there are no significant debts or complexities that require a full probate administration. Muniment of Title offers a streamlined way to transfer ownership of the property to the intended recipients.

Getting Help: Choosing the Right Attorney for Your Bellaire, TX Probate Case

The best way to ensure your probate is done right is to choose your attorney wisely. Do not assume that all attorneys are the same! Too many lawyers only “dabble” in probate or trusts. Don’t choose a lawyer who does probate as a sideline because these lawyers often blunder causing real problems for their client and their cases often take longer than those handled by experienced probate lawyers.

You don’t have to use the attorney who prepared the Will either! Just because a particular attorney prepared the Will, this does not mean that attorney must handle the probate, nor are they necessarily the right person for the job. You need to be comfortable with the attorney and confident that they are the right attorney for you.

Choosing your probate or trust lawyer is one of the most important decisions you will make. If you put in the time and effort to find the right lawyer, you will be rewarded with a skillful guide who will help you navigate the probate process.

Speak to a Texas Probate Lawyer Today

At Norris & Golubovic, PLLC, we are committed to providing you with the expertise, guidance, and compassion necessary to navigate probate. With a strong history of guiding clients through estate planning and probate law, our team brings a wealth of experience to the table. This experience translates into a firm grasp of ever-evolving Texas probate regulations, guaranteeing accurate and up-to-date legal guidance for your unique situation. If you have questions or would like to schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation, call 713-955-4501 or contact us online.