When a person dies in Texas, his estate must pass through a legal process known as probate. Probate requires an accounting of the decedent's property, payment of debts and division of the remaining property to beneficiaries or heirs. If the decedent executed a last will and testament before her death, the will must be admitted to probate. Two common procedures may be used to probate a will in Texas: "muniment of title," which is often accomplished without the need to hire an attorney, and the more formal "issuance of letters testamentary," which generally requires the services of an attorney.
Things You'll Need
- Original last will and testament
- Certified copy of death certificate
Obtain a certified copy of the death certificate. Request a copy from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Locate the original last will and testament. To probate a will, the original must be produced -- a copy will not be acceptable to the court. If the will is not found among the decedent's belongings, check with a family member, close friend or the decedent's attorney.
Select the appropriate probate procedure. If the estate has no significant debts to be paid and the administration issues are limited to passing title to property, you may use the probate of will as muniment of title. For all other situations, the estate must generally follow the probate of will and issuance of letters testamentary. When a formal administration is needed, the executor generally obtains the services of an attorney, although it is not legally required.
Prepare the appropriate documents to file with the court in the Texas county where the decedent lived at the time of death. A "petition for probate will" needs to be filed in all cases. The person named as the executor in the will generally applies to probate the estate. The need for additional documents will depend on the specifics of the estate. Forms are available through the TexasLawHelp website. A petitioner may also review the requirements for specific information in the Texas Probate Code.
Make a copy of the petition, will and death certificate. Additional copies may be needed for other beneficiaries or family members. File the petition, along with the original will and copy of the death certificate, with the appropriate court.
Notify beneficiaries, heirs or creditors of the estate. Under a formal administration of probate, this is done through publication of the petition in a local newspaper. When muniment of title is used, notice should already have taken place and debts already paid before petitioning.
Do an inventory the assets of the estate and pay all debts, including assets, if a formal administration is required.
Tips & Warnings
- When muniment of title is used, the court issues an order that allows all beneficiaries who are entitled to property under the will to transfer the title to the property.
- Although an attorney is not legally required when a probate of will and issuance of letters of letters testamentary is required, the process is complicated and the majority of executors hire an attorney.
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