When a Texas estate goes to probate, there are a limited number of people and parties who are able to participate in the process. The rule is that one must be considered an interested party to have their say in court. Oftentimes, one’s interested party status is in dispute at the outset of the probate proceeding.

An interested party is someone who has an economic interest that would be affected in the closing of the estate. While many may say that they have an interest, the court limits the number of participants. Certainly, close family relatives are interested parties since they have an interest in the distribution of property. Those who are not immediate family will have a higher burden in showing that they are interested parties. Creditors are also interested parties because their ability to be repaid the debts they are owed depends on probate.

If the court casts a broad net when it comes to interested parties, it could slow down the process. However, those who have been left out of the will have the need to be heard in court. Otherwise, they would receive nothing from the estate. Thus, whether one is an interested party is a fact-specific inquiry that the court will make before it gets into the substance of probate. If one is not allowed to participate, the court will not hear the merits of their arguments.

Those who either want to participate in the probate process or need to keep someone else out of the proceedings should first consult with a will contests attorney to learn about what they need to do to file a motion with the court. This will certainly require a hearing and a ruling by the court, so legal representation could be helpful given the unique requirements of a probate court.