On the surface, filing for probate is as simple as submitting an application to the appropriate court to initiate the process. In reality, the process is much more nuanced.
Probate is the process by which a deceased individual’s estate is administered and transferred to their heirs and beneficiaries after death. If you’re wondering how to get started, we have the answers you need to help you begin what can often feel like a complicated and overwhelming process.
So, how do you file for probate in Houston, TX? Use our guide below to learn more and see how the probate and estate administration attorneys at Robbins Estate Law can help you move forward.
Overview of the Houston Probate Process: A Step-By-Step Guide
Before you begin the probate process, you should know a few things. Here is a general overview of the steps when filing for probate in Houston.
- Determine the Type of Probate
Before you can file for probate in Houston, it’s important to determine what category of probate the estate will fall into.
In Texas, there are five types of probate. These include the following:
- Small estate affidavit,
- Muniment of title,
- Probate of an original will,
- Independent administration, and
- Dependent administration.
The type of probate you should pursue will depend on factors such as the value of the estate and whether the decedent left a valid will. Further, the category of probate pursued in any given case will significantly impact the expense for and length of the proceedings. Thus, selecting the appropriate type of probate will be extremely important.
If you have questions about which avenue to pursue, contact the attorneys at Robbins Estate Law to discuss the circumstances surrounding your case in more detail before deciding how to proceed.
- Prepare and File an Application for Probate
After determining what type of probate proceedings you intend to pursue, it is time to prepare and file the application for probate. The application for probate will usually include information regarding the following:
- Applicant’s name, domicile, and other identifying information;
- Testator’s (decedent’s) name, domicile, and age at the time of their death;
- Assets, debts, and value of the testator’s estate; and
- Type of probate procedure being pursued.
In many cases, the application for probate will be filed by the executor named in the decedent’s will. However, an administrator or other interested person may also be eligible to submit an application to probate a will in certain circumstances.
An application for probate typically must be filed in the county where the decedent was residing at the time of their death. Thus, if your loved one was domiciled in Houston, TX, at the time of their passing, you will most likely file the application with the Harris County Probate Court.
While you may file your application in person, the State of Texas currently encourages the electronic filing of court documents through efileTexas.gov.
- Other Steps in the Probate Process
Filing the application for probate is the first hurdle in the Texas probate process. However, there are several additional steps to complete as you move forward. Some of these steps include:
- Petitioning the court for “letters testamentary” to provide the executor or estate administrator with the authority to manage and distribute the estate’s assets;
- Attending a hearing to determine the existence and validity of the will (if applicable);
- Cataloging and inventorying the estate’s assets; and
- Identifying and notifying any heirs, beneficiaries, and creditors who may have an interest in the probate proceedings.
Filing the application for probate is just the first of many steps in a complex legal process. Thus, be sure to get the help you need and deserve to better preserve your rights and those of the decedent.
Need Help Filing for Probate in Houston, TX? Speak with an Estate Administration Attorney Today
At Robbins Estate Law, we pride ourselves on providing families with predictable, quality advice and legal representation to help them achieve their goals. Because at the end of the day, probate and estate planning isn’t about money—it’s about families and protecting your loved ones.
If you’re unsure where or how to get started, the estate administration attorneys at Robbins Estate Law are here to help. Call us to schedule your free consultation and see how our team can help you file for probate and navigate the rest of the process moving forward.
How Long Do I Have to Probate a Will in Texas?
Under Texas Estate Code section 256.003, except in limited circumstances, the statute of limitations for probating a will is typically four years. As such, an application to probate a will generally must be filed within four years after the date of the testator’s death. Thus, if you are the executor named in a loved one’s will or are otherwise eligible to file an application to probate a will in Texas, you must take the necessary steps to do so within the required timeframe.
Does Every Estate Have to Go Through the Probate Process?
No, not every estate will have to go through the probate process in Texas. For example, individuals with a trust rather than a will may be able to avoid probate entirely. In other cases, an estate may be able to go through simplified proceedings and avoid the formal probate process if the estate qualifies as a “small estate.”
Do I Need an Attorney to File for Probate?
Technically, no. You do not need an attorney to file for probate in Texas. That said, the probate process is often complicated, time-consuming, and stressful. Thus, it is common for people to hire an attorney to assist throughout the process. Hiring an attorney can be a great benefit as you file an application for probate and navigate the rest of the process moving forward.