Texas Dependent Administration Explained

In Texas, dependent administration is a probate procedure used to manage and settle an estate when court supervision is required. This process is often initiated when there are disputes among heirs, unclear wills, or large debts that complicate estate administration. With this type of administration, an appointed administrator (usually a close family member or a professional selected by the court) takes charge of the estate under the close oversight of the probate court.

While dependent administration provides an extra layer of protection for the estate’s stakeholders, it also involves more time and expense due to the frequent formalities and court interactions. In this guide, we explain how dependent administration works in Texas and when it might (and might not) be the best option for settling an estate.

Understanding Dependent Administration

Dependent administration is typically necessary when the estate is complicated for reasons like the following:

  • Unresolved debts
  • Disputes among beneficiaries and potential heirs
  • Absence of a clear will

In dependent administration, the court appoints an administrator who must seek its approval for nearly every decision or action taken regarding the estate. This includes selling assets, paying off debts, and distributing the remaining property to the heirs. They also have to submit detailed reports and account for all expenditures and receipts. 

Dependent vs. Independent Administration

In Texas, the choice between dependent and independent administration of an estate significantly affects how the estate is managed. It determines the level of court oversight and the flexibility given to the personal representative, also known as an executor or administrator, handling the estate.

Key distinctions between the two administration types are outlined below.

Bond Requirement

With dependent administration, the personal representative must post a bond before commencing their duties. This bond safeguards the estate’s assets by ensuring that the personal representative fulfills their responsibilities properly. The bond requirement is typically waived in independent estate administrations.

Court Oversight and Approval

With dependent administrations, the court maintains a high level of oversight. Except for certain actions like paying taxes, paying bond premiums, and insuring property, every important act by the personal representative must receive prior approval from the court. This includes selling property, settling large debts, and making distributions to beneficiaries. 

For routine expenses, the representative may be advised to prepare and file a monthly budget early in the administration process. This budget can help streamline approvals for regular, ongoing expenses for the year. However, any expenses or transactions outside this approved budget require separate court approval. Similarly, no attorneys’ fees or compensation to the personal representative can be disbursed without explicit court authorization.

In contrast, independent administration grants more autonomy for the personal representative. They can perform most actions without waiting for court approval, which can expedite the entire process.

Choosing Between Dependent and Independent Administration

The choice between these two types of administration depends largely on the estate particulars as well as the dynamics among the heirs. Dependent administration is often necessary in more complex scenarios where there are disputes, concerns about the personal representative’s impartiality or capability, or creditor issues. This method provides a structured approach where the court’s close supervision can ensure fairness and compliance with legal requirements.

Conversely, independent administration is suitable for simpler estates or situations where heirs agree with the estate’s management. It allows for faster processing and less financial burden due to reduced legal and court costs.

The Process of Dependent Administration

The process of dependent administration varies depending on whether the deceased person left a will or died intestate.

Dependent Administration With a Will

If the decedent left a will that did not allow for independent administration, or the beneficiaries prefer dependent administration, the will must be submitted for probate. This involves an Application for Probate of Will and the Appointment of an Executor or Administrator under the dependent administration framework.

Dependent Administration Without a Will

When a decedent dies intestate (without a will), the legal process begins with the filing of an Application for Appointment of Dependent Administrator and an Application for Determination of Heirship. These documents identify and legally recognize the heirs as well as establish the framework for estate administration. A Motion for Appointment of Attorney Ad Litem is also usually filed to protect the interests of minor children and potential unknown heirs. Heirs are notified of the proceedings through a Notice of Heirship Proceeding, which they can choose to waive.

Determination of Heirship

Following the submission of applications, a court hearing for the determination of heirship is set. This hearing involves testimony from at least two witnesses familiar with the decedent’s family history, which helps the court understand the familial connections and validate the heirship claims. If the court is satisfied, it issues a Judgment Declaring Heirship and appoints an administrator, who then takes an oath and posts a bond as a pledge of faithful execution of their duties.

Notices to Creditors

The administrator is tasked with several responsibilities, starting with the publication of a Notice to Creditors in a local newspaper. This notice, which must be sent out within one month of qualification, informs potential claimants about the estate administration, allowing them to come forward with any claims. Within two months of qualification, a Notice to Secured Creditors is also sent out. Depending on the circumstances, the administrator may also send permissive notices to unsecured creditors prompting them to present their claims within 121 days.

Annual Accounting

Each year, within sixty days following the anniversary of their appointment, the personal representative must submit an Annual Accounting to the court. This document provides a comprehensive snapshot of the estate’s financial status and activities during the year and is essential for both court oversight and informing the estate’s beneficiaries.

The components of an annual accounting are as follows:

    • Claims Management: The accounting must detail which claims against the estate have been approved, paid out, or denied by the personal representative. If any claims have escalated into lawsuits, the accounting should report the current status of these legal proceedings.
    • Estate Property Tracking: The document lists all property that has come into the possession of the personal representative over the year. Any changes, such as sales, depreciations, or appreciations in property value, must be reported.
    • Financial Transactions: A detailed list of all money received and spent, including the reasons for these transactions, must be included.
    • Detailed Property Descriptions: The accounting provides descriptions of all real and personal property under the estate’s management, along with their condition and current usage.
  • Financial Status: This includes reporting the exact amount of cash available and a detailed description of any personal property held by the estate. The status of tax returns filed and taxes paid or owed by the estate must also be provided.
  • Administrative Details: This includes confirmation that any required bond premiums have been paid.

To support the claims made in the Annual Accounting, the personal representative must provide vouchers and official letters from institutions managing the estate’s cash and investments. These documents serve as verifiable proof that the information presented in the accounting is accurate and that the estate’s financial management meets legal and ethical standards.

Final Accounting

Finally, the process concludes with a Final Accounting, which recaps the administration’s actions and lists property distributions to heirs or devisees. Once this document is filed and approved, the administrator can submit an Application to Close, Discharge, and Release Bond. Upon the judge’s approval of this application, an Order to Close, Discharge, and Release Bond is issued, officially ending the administrator’s responsibilities and releasing the bond, thus formally closing the estate.

How Can a Texas Probate Lawyer Help?

Hiring a probate attorney to assist with a dependent administration can make it easier to meet the legal and procedural requirements involved in managing an estate under court supervision. A probate lawyer can ensure accurate handling of initial filings and manage communications with creditors and heirs. They can also:

  • Oversee the submission of crucial documents like inventory lists and annual accountings. 
  • Prepare the necessary documentation for court-approved actions, such as property sales or debt settlements.
  • Facilitate the final accounting and closure of the estate. 

This professional guidance not only ensures legal compliance but also provides peace of mind to dependent administrators and heirs by making a potentially stressful and complicated procedure more manageable.

Speak to a Bellaire, TX, Estate Lawyer Today

The process of dependent administration can be complicated due to its stringent legal requirements and the need for thorough documentation and court interactions. Engaging a probate lawyer ensures that every step—from filing the initial documents to finalizing the estate closure—is handled correctly. This support not only streamlines the probate process but also safeguards the interests of all parties involved, ensuring that the administration is conducted smoothly and by the law.

If you are facing the challenges of managing a dependent administration or require the services of an experienced estate administration lawyer, Norris & Golubovic, PLLC is here to help. Our experienced probate lawyers can serve as the administrator of your loved one’s estate or provide the legal advice and support you need to manage your responsibilities. To learn more, please call 713-597-7301 or schedule your free consultation online today.