Knowledgeable Probate Mediation Attorneys in Houston, Texas
At Stepp & Sullivan, P.C., our probate mediation attorneys in Houston, Texas assist clients with all aspects of probate, including the mediation process that may be necessary to move the process of assessing and distributing your deceased loved one’s assets and debts from a standstill to their final ownership.
Our experienced Harris County probate attorneys 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, so you can move the probate process closer to finalization without delay.
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Contact UsWhat is Probate in Houston, TX?
Probate is 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 disputed. 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.
No matter what type of probate you are enduring, the legal components are going to be complex and will require an experienced attorney to produce results. Our probate mediation lawyers in Houston can help you pursue results without delay.
What are the Different Types of Probate in Houston, TX?
While many estates may pass through independent administration, this is not the only type of probate in Texas and in some circumstances could be disastrous when a dependent administration is prescribed. In fact, 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 dies 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 dies 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.
Is Probate Always Required in Houston, Texas?
In general, most estates will need to go through some sort of probate, as this is the official process of settling the estate and officiously transferring title to probate assets. Certain assets do not need to go through probate in order 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 a 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 are the Advantages of Probate Mediation in Houston, TX?
Probate mediation has significant advantages, including keeping your case out of the courtroom for someone else to determine its fate.
Moreover, probate mediation can help preserve your relationships with family members, instead of filing an expensive lawsuit that can destroy family relationships quickly, and often irrevocably.
When family members, or those with close ties to the deceased, are seeking the benefits of the estate, emotions become a focal point of the case. What one person believes is fair may be very different than what another considers fair, which is why the contention exists.
At Stepp & Sullivan, our probate mediation lawyers in Houston help the parties move past their emotions by offering rational, unbiased opinions of each party’s case – and how the law will establish their rightful ownership – by making creative suggestions for settlement.
Probate mediation may also offer significant financial savings, as it costs less than preparing for a courtroom battle and is eliminates any chance of you losing inside that courtroom or allowing someone else to make decisions on your behalf.
If your probate case will require litigation, our Houston attorneys will provide stellar representation inside the courtroom as well, as we have over 70 years of combined experienced that produces probate results for our clients. We will pursue the best outcome for your unique circumstances, too.
Contact Our Experienced Probate Mediation Lawyers in Houston, Texas Today to Schedule a Consultation
When your loved one passes away — with or without a Will — assessing and validating their property, legal paperwork, and wishes can be overwhelming.
We understand. There are so many things to consider when probate becomes an issue with any estate — no matter its size or financial value — it is just another reminder that your loved one is no longer with us and, as emotions run extremely high, the circumstances can turn family members against each other without notice.
If you have questions about probate mediation and want to resolve your loved one’s estate without going to court, our experienced lawyers in Houston at Stepp & Sullivan, P.C. can help you outline the facts of your circumstances and provide real-time solutions that will allow you to move forward.
We are proud to provide personalized legal services and steadfast representation for each client n Texas, so they can get their lives back on track without any further contention hanging in the balance.
Contact our skilled probate mediation lawyers in Houston to discuss your legal needs today by calling (713) 677-2533 to schedule an initial confidential consultation.