I spent a very cold and snowy weekend in February visiting my family in Connecticut. As I sat and admired the white drifts out the kitchen window, I worked on convincing my parents for the hundredth time to abandon the Northeast for the sunny skies of San Antonio. Sure it would be a huge adjustment, but there is no snow to shovel in Texas and, as Lyle Lovett sings, “that’s right: you’re not from Texas, but Texas wants you anyways!” One downside of the move to Texas, however, is that the probate process is more complicated than it is in Connecticut. For my fellow transplants, here’s a primer:
Intestate Administration- Small Estates
If a person dies without a will, or “intestate” as we like to say in the legal world, and has less than $50,000 in assets excluding the homestead, a representative of that individual, usually a family member, needs to complete a small estate affidavit listing any children or other family members that could inherit and including statements about the deceased verified by people who know him or her. That affidavit then needs to be signed, notarized and submitted to the probate court. Once the affidavit is approved by the court it needs to be recorded in the county records and then finally the estate can be divided and distributed to the rightful heirs.
Intestate Administration- Larger Estates
If the estate is worth more than $50,000 then it becomes a dependent administration and every step of the probate process, from determining heirs to gathering and distributing property, must be overseen and approved by the probate court. This can seem like a daunting task to anyone who has spent little or no time in a courtroom.
Administering a Will
If the deceased has executed a will, the will needs to be submitted and approved by the probate court, assets need to be cataloged, creditors notified, beneficiaries located and in some cases, property needs to be sold. Creating a will ahead of time will make the probate process easier and of course gives you more control during your life time but it still does not entirely avoid a trip to court for your loved ones.