What Happens When I Die

What Does Probate Involve?

Unlike most states, Texas allows you to have an independent administration. But you get this only if you have a properly drawn Will. With an independent administration the person you have named as your independent executor (the representative of your estate) will usually hire an attorney. The attorney will prepare an application to probate the Will. The executor will accompany the attorney to court and will testify as to the fact that the person has died; that the Will was signed when the testator was of sound mind; that the Will is his last Will and was never revoked; and that the executor desires to be appointed as the executor of the estate. If the judge finds everything in order, he will order the Will admitted to probate and will order that “letters testamentary” be issued to the independent executor. The independent executor will then publish in a local newspaper a “Notice to Creditors” advising any creditors to present their claims; he will also file an Inventory, Appraisement and List of Claims (basically a list of the assets of the deceased and their fair market value). The independent executor will then be free to “administer” the estate — that is, he will gather the assets of the deceased; pay any debts of the deceased in a specific order; and then distribute the assets to the persons named in the Will.

If I Have A Will, Must I Leave Any Portion Of My Estate To Any Particular Person?

No. Texas, unlike other states, does not have “forced heirship”. This means with a properly drawn Will you can leave your property to whomever you choose. As a matter of fact, by having a Will, you can remember your favorite charity, your church or synagogue or special friend.

Whom Should I Name As My Independent Executor?

Quite often a married person will name his or her spouse. Another possibility is an adult child. In any case, the person you name should be someone in whom you have complete trust and confidence — someone you believe is a good business manager because he or she will have complete responsibility for your financial affairs until your assets are distributed and your estate closed. You might want to give serious consideration to naming a bank which has a trust department as the executor because they have people especially trained to do this work.

How Much Does A Will Cost?

Surprisingly little for an uncomplicated Will — probably no more than what an attorney would charge for making one appearance in the probate court. But if you die without a Will, your spouse’s attorney (or the attorney for the court-appointed administrator) will more than likely have to make many such appearances.

Who Should Prepare My Will?

An attorney knowledgeable about Wills and Estate Planning.