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Probate doesn’t have to be a mystery

The probate process is a series of legal tasks that occur to close an estate after someone has died. The specific steps and requirements of probate vary from state to state, but some general requirements exist uniformly. Probate has several purposes, only one of which is to distribute the deceased’s assets to survivors. Before this can happen, an estate will have to go through weeks or even months of investigation and verification.

If the deceased left a will, the court will have to determine if the will is authentic and valid, according to Texas laws. As long as no one contests the authenticity or validity of a will, probate proceeds to the next step, which is appointing an executor to oversee the probate process. The deceased may have designated someone for this role, or the court may name one. When the deceased left assets but did not have a will, the court typically appoints an administrator of the estate to settle it according to the state’s laws of intestacy. After an executor or administrator has been appointed, the process then turns to the assets and heirs.

Valuables and debts

Before anyone can claim an inheritance, the executor must collect, secure and possibly valuate the assets in the estate. The executor is responsible for keeping the assets safe from harm or loss. Additionally, the estate must satisfy any creditors to whom the deceased owed a debt, including state, federal and potentially estate taxes. These debts may require the sale of some assets.

Once these and other steps are completed, the heirs will receive their inheritance from the remainder of the estate. The executor may have to deal with disputes and dissatisfaction among the beneficiaries, and there is always the risk of personal accountability if assets lose value or end up missing during probate. Typically, estate executors rely on legal professionals to guide them through the complex maze of the Texas probate process and to minimize their own liability.