In this article, you will learn…
- How long it usually takes for the probate process,
- What delays can arise during probate, and
- What options are available to avoid probate for small estates.
Is Probate Usually A Long And Difficult Process In Texas?
Probate, once started, will run for an absolute minimum of six months. The process begins when you file an application to probate a will or, if a will doesn’t exist, file an application to determine heirship. The court won’t give you a hearing to appoint an executor or administrator for anywhere between three and eight weeks. This depends on how busy the court is at the time you file. So, there’s at least a month delay right at the beginning of the process for no reason other than the court’s schedule is busy.
After you have your hearing and an executor is appointed, our office would file and publish a notice in the newspaper indicating who has been appointed executor of the deceased’s estate and asking anyone who feels they have a claim against that estate to contact them. By law, you have to give four months for people to pop up and state that they have a claim against the estate.
The executor of the estate must wait the full four months before distributing the estate, because you have to ensure that you have enough liquid assets to handle any existing claims that have been filed against the estate. So, this brings you to a minimum of five and a half to six months in the process. This is if you already have a will.
If there is no will, the court has to determine who the heirs are. Once the court has appointed an administrator, they then appoint a second attorney which is called an “Attorney Ad Litem”. The Attorney Ad Litem is charged with doing an independent investigation to make sure that the administrator and their own attorney have not missed out on some error somewhere. They will interview two disinterested witnesses who have known the deceased for a good number of years and confirm that the deceased has no other heirs than the ones put forth. It can take a long time to find the right people to testify to this and can add another month delay to the process.
An example of a delay in this process would be the time that a client’s deceased father had left when he was in his teenage years. The deceased had moved around and married multiple women, so we had to track down witnesses in Illinois and in California, arrange a Zoom hearing with all parties, and have the witnesses confirm that my client was the only heir.
What Is The Difference Between A Dependent And An Independent Administration? Is One Method Preferred Over The Other?
An independent administration or executor is very different from a dependent executor or administration. As soon as an independent executor or administrator is appointed, they get to go out and…
- Collect the assets,
- Sue anyone that owes the deceased money,
- Collect any money owed to the deceased,
- Sell the assets owned by the deceased, and
- Distribute all proceeds from assets according to the will or state law, if it’s an heirship case.
In a dependent administration or executor, they have to get court approval before they can take any action. At each step along the way, the dependent administrator or executor has to file a motion to get the court’s approval. That means that if they want to sell an asset, such as the deceased’s old boat, they have to make a motion and wait for the court’s approval to sell that asset. They have to repeat this process for every action they wish to take to sell off assets and distribute the proceeds.
This is a very tedious and much more expensive process and it typically happens when there is dissension among the children or among the heirs. There may be trust issues among the heirs that the court then has to step in and approve every decision being made with the estate.
So, the independent executor and an independent administrator are the fastest, easiest, and far less expensive ways of doing probate. The independent executor or administrator is able to act outside of the court’s oversight.
Does Probate Typically Last Only Nine Months Or Can It Take Longer?
There can be probate cases that last for decades, depending on the size of the estate. As long as there are people contesting the will or what an executor did with the assets, that case can go on nearly forever.
There’s a good example of one such case here in Houston, Texas. The Cullen family, who are very wealthy with their name appearing on big streets and buildings on various college campuses, has been in a dispute over who got what out of their parents’ estate for 30 years before I got involved. Even after I got involved, it went on without me because there are still disputes over it.
Do Small Estates Have To Be Probated In Texas?
A small estate can be probated in Texas, but typically you will be able to file a small estate affidavit and avoid probate if…
- The deceased did not have a will,
- The estate is liquid, and
- There’s only one lien on real property that is worth not more than $75,000.
So, you can often file a small estate affidavit and that will allow the person who files the application to be appointed executor and deal with everything themselves.
For more information on Timeline Of Probate Process In Texas, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (281) 843-9723 today.