When a family member passes away, surviving relatives face the daunting task of concluding their financial and legal affairs. After a funeral and a time of mourning, survivors are advised to seek the guidance and assistance of an experienced probate lawyer to ensure a timely and orderly dispersal of their deceased loved one's assets. Probate attorneys also handle guardianship proceedings.
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When someone dies, someone must be appointed to administer their estate, settle their financial affairs, and carry out their final wishes via probate. Depending on whether or not the decedent had a will, that person is called either the “executor” or “administrator” of the estate. Executors and administrators are also referred to as “personal representatives” of the estate. At Hendershot Cowart P.C., we help executors and administrators in Houston and throughout Texas make it through the probate process.
We have more than 100 years of combined experience, we value our relationships with clients, and we believe in strong communication from start to finish.
If you have been named or appointed as an personal representative of a loved one’s estate, call us at (713) 909-7323 to learn more about what our firm can do for you.
Probate is a process by which the courts legally recognize a deceased person's death, settle their outstanding debts, and distribute their remaining assets to their heirs.
The process is handled in special courts and can take six months to one year or longer to complete. There is no deadline by which an estate must be completed in Texas. However, in most cases, the executor or administrator can be ordered to provide an accounting of the estate if an estate is not completed within 15 months.
If your loved one left behind a will, the probate process begins when you submit their will to the proper Texas probate court. Wills must be submitted in the county the decedent lived in before they died.
From there, the county clerk will post a notice that the will has been filed. For the next 10 days, anyone who wishes to contest the will may do so. The probate process continues after the 10-day notice period with a probate hearing, which takes place before a probate judge and permits you to act on the estate’s behalf.
After the hearing, the executor or administrator has 90 days to inventory and appraise the decedent’s estate. Executors and administrators must also notify creditors and beneficiaries, discharge debts, file taxes, and otherwise settle the estate. A simple estate may be settled in six months; a more complicated estate may take longer. A probate attorney can help expedite the process and keep the executor on task.
Your duties as an executor or administrator can be overwhelming, but our Houston probate attorneys are here to help you.
Probate and estate administration are two parts of the same process. If the deceased had a will, "probate” generally refers to the act of going to court and proving the will is valid. In cases where the person did not have a will, “probate” generally refers to going to court to prove the identity of the decedent’s surviving heirs at law and how much each of them is entitled to inherit. In both types of cases, probate includes the appointment of either an executor or administrator for the estate.
Estate administration generally refers to the actions the executor or administrator takes to settle the decedent’s estate after they are appointed by the court. This can include identifying creditors, paying debts, selling estate property, filing tax returns, forming trusts, distributing assets to heirs or beneficiaries, and a wide range of other tasks.
A qualified Texas probate lawyer can help with both probating the estate in court and assisting you with the duties of estate administration.
A probate attorney focuses their practice on estate administration and has experience with the probate process. A probate lawyer can help you:
- Review your loved one’s last will and testament
- Complete and file the necessary paperwork with the court
- Contact creditors and beneficiaries
- Get through hearings and court appearances
- Ease the duties of estate administration
- Handle contested wills and other disputes
You cannot settle the estate until all estate administration duties have been executed and any disputes resolved. The probate attorneys at Hendershot Cowart P.C. can provide effective, low-stress solutions at every phase of the probate process, so you can focus on mourning your loss and upholding your family’s legacy.
There is a difference between probate law and estate planning, which involves working with living clients to protect and preserve their legacy for the next generation. While some firms offer both estate planning and estate administration or probate services, the two practices are different. Our Houston probate attorneys focus specifically on helping clients through the probate process and estate administration.
In Texas, the guardianship process is also overseen by the Probate Court making a probate attorney uniquely qualified to help you navigate guardianship or evaluate guardianship alternatives.
A probate attorney with guardianship experience like ours can:
- Guide you through the legal process of establishing and overseeing a guardianship
- Help with issues that arise during the guardianship, such as disputes over the ward's care or finances
- Assist in the termination of a guardianship
- Counsel you on less restrictive alternatives to guardianship such as powers of attorney, advance healthcare directives, or a special needs trust. Another option to guardianship is supported decision-making arrangement, which enables an adult with a disability or other impairment that affects their ability to make certain decisions to enter a beneficial legal agreement with their chosen supporter.
- Help you defend against challenges to terminate guardianships or dissolve a special needs trust or other guardianship alternative
Because establishing guardianship is a complex legal process, and because awarding control of person’s rights to another is a major decision, legal representation when seeking guardianship is crucial.
Yes. In Texas, the executor of an estate is required to be represented by a licensed lawyer. Although state and federal law gives you the right to represent yourself in most cases, this right does not exist in probate cases because you are representing someone else’s estate – and the interests of the decedent’s heirs and creditors.
Nevertheless, you can choose how involved you want your probate attorney to be with your case. Our team is dedicated to representing you in probate court and helping you as much or as little as you wish.
Full-service probate firms like Hendershot Cowart P.C. are especially helpful when you are dealing with a large, complex estate or potential conflicts among beneficiaries, creditors, or other interested parties. We can advise you of your rights and help guide the estate administration to an efficient and peaceful conclusion.
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Hendershot Cowart P.C. is based in Houston, Texas and helps residents of Harris, Galveston, Fort Bend, and Montgomery Counties with probate and estate administration matters. We believe in loyalty to our clients, and we strive to exceed your expectations.
If you are facing the distribution of an estate or named as an executor or administrator for an estate, speak to a Houston probate attorney today. Call us at (713) 909-7323 or contact us online to schedule a consultation
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