For most people thinking about an estate in Texas, the word “probate” may leave a bad taste in their mouths. Quite a few people engage in careful estate planning specifically to avoid the probate courts. The expense and time involved in going through probate can seem like a negative thing to people planning estates and beneficiaries waiting for an inheritance.
However, neither the probate courts nor the probate process is inherently bad or detrimental to the administration of an estate. In fact, in many cases, the opposite is true. The Texas probate courts can help settle disagreements, validate the last will and ensure that the rights of everyone receive adequate consideration and protection during estate administration.
The courts review the last will and ensure proper estate administration
The process of handling a last will typically starts with presenting the document to the courts for review. Once they have validated it and ensured that it does not conflict with Texas state law, they will then oversee the estate administration process.
The probate courts provide a source of oversight during estate administration to ensure that the estate fulfills all of its obligations, including the repayment of debts to creditors prior to the distribution of assets to beneficiaries.
The courts help settle any disagreements or conflicts that arise
Maybe one sibling feels that the estate plan unfairly favors someone and suspects undue influence may have impacted the terms left behind by the testator. Perhaps there is a blended family situation where the adult children of the deceased are upset about the portion of the estate that their stepparent will retain.
The probate courts can assist in settling these issues, which may include challenges against the terms of the last will or the executor.
The probate courts handle situations without a last will
Some people die without leaving behind a last will or estate plan. Other times, there may be an estate plan, but no one can locate it. If the family believes there is no last will or if four years have passed since the day of death, the Texas courts may declare the estate intestate and use state law to determine how to allocate the assets left behind.