Probate lawyers in Houston, Texas
OVER 70 YEARS OF COMBINED LEGAL EXPERIENCE
Experienced Probate Litigation Attorneys
Probate Trials are the court-supervised process of administering an estate after the owner of the estate dies. Probate can be lengthy and complicated, depending on the circumstances, such as if the deceased did not have a Will or if the existing Will is improperly drafted. However, thanks to the state’s “independent administration” allowance, probate in Texas can, in some circumstances, be simpler than in many other places, allowing Executors to settle uncomplicated and uncontested estates with minimal court supervision.
If you are facing a complex probate process, it is very important to hire experienced probate litigation lawyers in Houston.
At Stepp & Sullivan, P.C., we assist clients with all aspects of probate. Our Houston Probate lawyers can help you complete the required steps if you are the Executor of an estate, ensure your rights are protected if you are an heir or beneficiary and represent you if you are involved in a dispute regarding a will or an estate.
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What is the Probate Process?
While many estates may pass through independent administration, this is not the only type of probate in Texas. There are several ways in which assets and properties can be transferred to new owners once the owner of the estate has passed away.
The two main types of probate in Texas include:
- Independent Administration
This requires minimal court supervision and is typically faster and less expensive than traditional types of probate. If an individual passed away without a Will, an administrator of the estate can still request independent administration if all heirs agree, there are no minor heirs, and the estate is thought to be solvent.
- Dependent Administration
This is less common than independent administration but may be required if an individual passed away without a Will and heirs do not agree to independent administration.
It may also be required when there are disputes regarding an existing Will or where there are minor heirs; but especially when the estate is insolvent. Dependent administration requires greater court supervision regarding various aspects of settling the estate, such as distributing assets, paying debts, and selling property. Dependent administration involves “running down to the courthouse for everything” whereas independent administration usually just involves the one hearing, taking the Oath in court, and completing all other mandatory aspects outside of court.
In addition to independent and dependent administration of estates, Texas allows what is known as “muniment of title,” which is a relatively simple process of settling an estate when a Will exists but is limited to very specific fact scenarios involving Medicaid Estate Reimbursement and is only possible where there is a certainty that no administration of the estate needs to be opened.
Additionally, if an estate is worth less than $75,000 and there is no Will, the heirs may be able to sign a “small estate affidavit” which would be filed with the probate court and often does not require a hearing for the judge to sign the Order; however, SEAs are only possible for extremely limited factual scenarios for a surviving spouse and/or minor children of the decedent to obtain title to the homestead – more complicated family structures will have to go through heirship in the absence of a valid Texas Will.
The Probate Process: Paying Debts and Transferring Assets
Once the probate process is initiated, two important factors will proceed with the payment of debts and the transfer of assets to the beneficiaries.
That includes establishing:
If there is a will, the probate process will validate its existence. If an eligible party has reason to contest a will, it will be taken to probate court to determine its validity.
Significant parts of a deceased person’s assets, including homes, businesses, or family heirlooms are subject to appraisal to determine their true value during probate.
When the individual passes away, there may be outstanding debts, including all forms of owed monies, like taxes or other liabilities, and our probate litigation lawyers in Houston can help determine how to handle them.
When all other aspects of probate are established, the property and assets of the estate can be distributed.
Each of these practices may well benefit from having experienced Houston probate lawyers who can oversee the process, so there is no detail left to chance when pursuing the outcome you deserve.
Is Probate Always Required?
In general, most estates will need to go through some sort of probate, as this is the official process of settling the estate and transferring title to probate assets. Certain assets do not need to go through probate to be transferred to a new owner under most circumstances — if structured correctly, these non-probate assets are not subject to the probate process and rely on contract law.
These non-probate assets can include:
- Life insurance benefits
- Joint tenancy property
- Survivor’s benefits from an annuity
- Bank accounts that are “payable on death”
- Retirement accounts with valid beneficiary designations
- Real property with the valid transfer on death deeds on file in county records
However, many times people do not make valid beneficiary designations or do not update them over the years as things change such as divorce or other significant life events, which can lead to unfortunate surprises.
What Happens When a Business is Included in an Estate?
When a deceased person’s estate includes one or more businesses, you will need an experienced Houston probate lawyer to help you sort through the details of the business’s interests.
At Stepp & Sullivan, P.C., our Houston probate litigation lawyers provide the insight and experience to handle any type of probate issue involving businesses and high-value assets.
We will evaluate all aspects of family-owned businesses, limited partnerships, and other businesses that are left behind by the deceased, so their heirs can assume the benefits of their loved one’s hard work to secure their futures.
That may include, based on our Houston probate attorneys pursuit:
- Liquidating assets
- Dividing business interests fairly
- Continuing the family business
Each person’s probate needs are unique and require an experienced probate litigation attorney in Houston to pursue results.
What Happens When a Will is Contested?
Our Houston probate attorneys have over 70 years of combined experience serving clients who are contesting their loved one’s will.
We pride ourselves in providing exceptional litigation and defense of fiduciaries such as trustees and executors.
Keep in mind, contesting a will is not something you should take on alone. The legal requirements necessary to begin the process will immediately become overwhelming, and the evidence necessary to create success will almost certainly require litigation.
Our skilled probate attorneys in Houston provide straightforward legal representation, so our clients know where they stand and how we plan to pursue real-time results, so they can move forward with their lives knowing their loved one’s wishes are being fulfilled.
Please see the section on our site regarding Probate Litigation for more details.
Contact Our Probate Litigation Lawyers Today to Get Started
If you have questions about probate or need assistance settling an estate, our probate law firm can help you pursue the results you deserve no matter which side of the probate process you are on.
Contact our Houston litigation attorneys at Stepp & Sullivan, P.C. to discuss your unique circumstances with one of our skilled probate lawyers today.
We know that losing a loved one is never easy. We are proud to provide compassionate representation and top-notch personalized legal services for each client. We will be pleased to review your case during an initial appointment by calling (713) 336-7200 today. Your loved one’s memory should be honored by evaluating their final wishes, whether there was a will or not, and we can help you pursue the process without delay.