If someone you love dies, you may be wondering what happens next. Probate is the legal process regarding the settlement of the decedent’s estate.
If the decedent had a will at the time of death, the first step is to file the will and apply for probate through the county of the deceased. According to the Texas Constitution and Statutes, this must occur by the fourth anniversary of the deceased’s death.
Naming of the executor
During a hearing, a judge approves the validity of the will, admits it to probate and appoints an executor. If the will did not name one, the judge accepts applications for the role. According to the Harris County Probate Courts, within 30 days, this individual must inform the estate’s creditors about the probate process. He or she must also inform the named beneficiaries within 60 days.
Gathering and appraisal of inventory
The executor must locate and gather the assets named in the will. He or she must appraise them for value, keep them safe and submit the inventory list to the court within 90 days.
Paying creditors and bills of the estate
Another role of the executor is to pay all valid debts and ongoing bills of the estate. If there is not enough cash available from the estate, the executor can sell assets to make the payments.
There are not always disputes during probate, but there must be a resolution of any dispute before the settlement of the estate. Disputes may regard appraisals, a creditor’s claim or the will itself.
The executor must file taxes for the estate. He or she must also pay any taxes owed from the estate.
After the resolution of debts and disputes, the executor distributes the remaining assets to beneficiaries, and there is a closing of the estate.