McKinney Probate Lawyers for Administration and Litigation
Whether a person dies with or without an estate plan, there is a real possibility that at least some of his or her assets will be subject to the process known as “probate.” Probate is a court-supervised process for distributing a deceased individual’s property to his or her heirs. In Texas, there are a number of different forms of probate. Although the process can be stressful and time-consuming, in some cases, it can also be fairly straightforward. Either way, consulting with McKinney probate lawyers is the best way to avoid a legal headache.
At The Nordhaus Firm, we have extensive experience representing personal representatives, heirs, beneficiaries, and other interested parties in all aspects of probate administration in McKinney, TX. If you are preparing to go through probate, or if you have run into issues along the way, our probate attorneys can help you stand up for your loved one’s final wishes and enforce your legal rights.
Our McKinney Probate Lawyers Help with Probate Administration
We represent all interested parties in probate administration. This includes:
- Personal representatives
The decedent’s personal representative is responsible for managing the probate administration process, including paying off debts and distributing the decedent’s assets to his or her beneficiaries (if there is a will) and heirs (if there is no will or if the will does not address certain assets). Creditors are third parties, such as lenders and credit card companies that may also get involved in probate to make sure they get paid out of the decedent’s estate.
Depending on whether the decedent left a will, as well as the size of his or her estate, there are a number of probate options that may be available. Most probate proceedings in Texas use what is known as “independent administration.” Independent administration allows the personal representative to perform his or her duties without seeking court approval, which speeds up the process and reduces the costs involved. Learn more about independent administration and other types of probate in Texas.
Experienced Representation for Probate Litigation
In addition to representing interested parties in probate administration, our attorneys also regularly represent clients in probate litigation. With all that is at stake, it is not unusual for individuals to run into problems during the probate process. From questions about the content of a will to disputes regarding a personal representative’s performance of his or her obligations, there are a number of issues that commonly lead to contentious disputes. We have extensive experience in cases involving will contests, breaches of fiduciary duty, and a wide variety of other issues arising during probate administration.
In probate litigation, we focus on finding efficient, cost-effective, and amicable resolutions to our client’s problems. We are sensitive to the fact that you are going through a challenging time and if your dispute involves close family members or relatives, we understand how important it is not to let one disagreement lead to a lifetime of ill will. If you are facing a probate-related dispute, we encourage you to contact one of our McKinney probate lawyers to learn more about what we can do to help.
Our McKinney Probate Lawyers Explain 7 Ways to Prepare for Probate in Texas
If you have recently lost a loved one and are preparing to go through the probate process, there is a lot you need to know. While probate can be confusing, it does not have to be scary, and understanding what you can expect during the process will help alleviate some of the stress involved.
Here are seven facts to know if you are preparing for probate in Texas:
1. Heirs And Beneficiaries Are Different.
Although the terms “heir” and “beneficiary” are often used interchangeably, they have different meanings. An heir is someone who is entitled to a share of a person’s estate under the law of intestate succession, while a beneficiary is someone who is named in a will, trust, or another transfer document. If someone leaves his or her entire estate to named beneficiaries, the beneficiaries’ rights take precedence over those of the statutory heirs.
2. Personal Representatives Have Legal Obligations.
Serving as a personal representative entails certain legal responsibilities, and failure to meet these responsibilities can lead to personal liability. For this reason, family members named as personal representatives will often hire attorneys to guide them through the process.
3. Not All Assets Transfer Through Probate.
Probate is required any time a person dies with or without a will. But, even if your loved one left a will, there is still a good chance that all or a portion of his or her assets will transfer outside of the probate process. For example, trust assets transfer outside of probate, and there are a variety of other types of beneficiary designations that can result in non-probate transfers as well.
4. Probate Is More Than Distribution Of Assets.
While distributing assets is often an important component of the probate process, probate is not just about the distribution of assets. Establishing guardianship for minor children, paying debts, and a variety of other issues must also typically be resolved through probate.
5. Creditors Get Paid Before Heirs And Beneficiaries.
Speaking of debts, in probate, creditors get paid before heirs and beneficiaries. Personal representatives must provide notice to certain creditors, and all creditors must be given the opportunity to assert their rights before the distribution of the decedent’s estate.
6. There are Two Different Types Of Probate.
In Texas, there are two primary forms of probate: independent administration and court-supervised dependent administration. However, there are also simplified procedures for probating for smaller estates, and understanding which option (or options) you have available is critical to minimizing the costs involved.
7. Any Interested Party Can Challenge The Terms Of A Decedent’s Will.
Finally, if you believe your loved one’s will should not be enforced, or if you reach an impasse regarding the interpretation of your loved one’s will, you have the right to bring a claim in court. While litigation is often necessary, more often, family members and other interested parties can resolve their differences amicably with the help of their respective McKinney probate lawyers. It’s important to prepare an estate plan to make the distribution of assets easier for everyone.
Due to the complexities involved, we strongly advise anyone dealing with probate to seek experienced legal representation. If you are preparing for probate in Texas and would like to speak with a lawyer, you can contact an attorney online for a free consultation.
Breaking Down the Texas Probate Process
While the technical aspects of the probate process vary for dependent and independent probate administration, the key steps involved are generally the same. During probate, the decedent’s personal representative will be primarily responsible for:
Initiating the probate process – The probate process starts with filing the decedent’s will (if any) and an application for probate in the appropriate county court.
Identifying the decedent’s beneficiaries and heirs – Taking into consideration the provisions of the decedent’s will (assuming it is valid) and any applicable provisions of Texas’ intestate succession laws, the decedent’s beneficiaries and heirs will need to be identified.
Identifying and valuing the assets in the decedent’s estate – The personal representative will also be responsible for identifying and valuing the assets comprising the decedent’s probate estate. This includes any assets identified in the will as well as any other assets not covered by non-probate transfers.
Satisfying valid creditor claims – Once all probate assets are accounted for, any valid creditor claims must be satisfied using assets from the estate. The personal representative is responsible for providing adequate notice to creditors.
Paying the expenses incurred during probate – In addition to paying creditors, the personal representative must also ensure payment of all expenses incurred during the probate process.
Distributing the decedent’s remaining assets to beneficiaries and heirs – After all valid creditor claims and probate-related expenses have been paid, the remainder of the decedent’s probate estate will be distributed to his or her beneficiaries and heirs.
Carrying out the other provisions of the decedent’s will – Finally, the personal representative must carry out any other provisions of the decedent’s will. For example, if the will provides for guardianship of a minor child, the guardianship will need to be established along with the distribution of the decedent’s estate.
Will Contests and Probate Litigation Can Also Be Handled by Our Probate Law Firm
In some circumstances, family members may disagree over the validity or interpretation of their loved one’s will, or other legal issues may arise during dependent or independent administration. Will contests and probate litigation can prolong the administration process. These disputes involve their own processes and procedures, and anyone anticipating a probate-related dispute should promptly seek legal representation.
Speak with the McKinney Probate Lawyers at The Nordhaus Firm Today
At The Nordhaus Firm, we offer free consultations and we will speak with you in strict confidence about your legal needs. If you would like to discuss your needs with an attorney at our offices in McKinney, call 214-726-1450 or send us a message online today.
Disclaimer: While our primary office is located in McKinney, Texas, The Nordhaus Firm provides legal representation to residents in the Allen, Frisco, Prosper, and the entire Collin County area.
What’s the difference between a personal representative and an executor?
A personal representative is a general term a McKinney probate lawyer often uses to refer to an individual authorized by the probate court to manage the estate of the decedent. If that person was designated in a valid will, the personal representative is technically called an executor. If there is no valid will and the court appoints a personal representative, then that person is officially known as an administrator. So an executor is simply one type of personal representative. The duties are the same, regardless of the term used.
Do I get paid for being a personal representative?
In most cases, a personal representative can be compensated for the duties they undertake in administering the estate. If the will specifies that the executor will not be paid for their services or if the will includes instructions for computing an amount of compensation for the executor, then usually courts will follow these terms.
Often, the will says nothing about compensation or there is no will. In that case, Texas Estates Code § 352.002 allows an executor or administrator to receive a 5% commission on all amounts they receive or pay while handling the estate’s administration so long as the amount does not exceed 5% of the fair market value of the estate and meets other requirements. Personal representatives are also entitled to reimbursement for reasonable expenses.
A McKinney probate lawyer may need to file a formal request with the court for compensation and reimbursement, particularly if the estate is under a dependent administration. What is considered reasonable depends on the circumstances, including the complexity of the estate.
Do I need a lawyer if the will or estate administration is uncontested?
Even when no one is contesting the will or challenging your administration of the estate, probate is a complex undertaking that often takes up to a year or more to complete. If you make a mistake, creditors, beneficiaries, or heirs could sue you for breach of fiduciary duty. Many personal representatives hire an attorney to guide them through the probate process to avoid problems and delays. There may be many tasks your McKinney probate lawyer can handle directly on your behalf, saving you considerable time and expense. In some cases, the court will not allow a personal representative to proceed through probate without professional legal counsel, but even if a lawyer’s assistance is not required, it often proves invaluable in navigating the complexities of the legal process.
When do I have to start probate?
In most cases, an executor named in a will must file for probate within four years of the decedent’s death. After that time, the court proceeds as if the will doesn’t exist and the estate will be handled according to the laws of intestate succession.
Does a personal representative have to pay any of the deceased person’s bills if they didn’t leave enough money?
Generally, the personal representative’s role does not make them liable for the debts left behind by the deceased person. A surviving spouse would be liable for debts incurred during the marriage, and anyone who co-signed on a loan or held a joint credit account would also be liable for debts.
If there are no others responsible for liability and the estate does not have enough money to satisfy debts, some unsecured creditors may go unpaid. However, if the personal representative violated laws or procedures while managing the estate, creditors could seek compensation from the personal representative for breach of duty.