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.
What Is Probate?
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 attorneysare here to help you.
What Is the Difference Between Probate and Estate Administration?
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.
What Does a Probate Attorney Do?
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.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Probate?
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.
Schedule a Consultation Today
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.