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Probate: A prolonged process

Probate is a legally complex and emotionally-charged process. The loss of a loved one is devastating to a family. However, after that loss, legal steps must be taken to attend to the estate.

Probate involves the transfer of assets from a deceased individual’s name to the names of surviving family members. Depending on the estate’s value and the property within the estate, the court has the authority to legally recognize the death of a family member and starts the process of the management and distribution of the estate.

Complicated steps

A certain amount of property may not need to be probated due to it not being a part of the estate. This is usually due to a previous assignment of beneficiaries, and includes:

  • Life insurance with a living beneficiary
  • Bank accounts associated with a “payable on death” form
  • Retirement accounts requiring contact with the company directly to identify heirs and payouts
  • Transfer on Death Deed (TODD) associated with land, a house, or other types of real property

Determining the heirs of the estate is only one of many steps. Identifying the decedent’s property status starts with the deceased marital status and whether assets are in separate or community status. Children from any possible union must also be considered for the potential distribution of assets.

The surviving spouse and children may also be entitled to an allowance instead of the exempt property defined. According to the Texas Estates code, those loved ones would be entitled to a reasonable allowance from the deceased’s estate.

Texas probate cases are filed in the county clerk’s office. Some counties provide jurisdiction in a general county court. Larger counties could involve jurisdiction by a statutory probate court.