The Rice Law Firm, PLLC

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Frequently Asked Questions about Probating Wills

Disclaimer: The Woodlands and Houston lawyer, Merita Rice, has answered some frequently asked questions in the areas of probate and estate administration. Please note that these questions are provided for informational purposes only; therefore, they should not be construed as legal advice.  Contact a probate and estate administration attorney in Houston or The Woodlands to discuss the facts of your case. No attorney-client relationship is created via this website. An attorney-client relationship is created only after the client has signed a contract for services.

My husband’s Will leaves everything to me. Our house and all of our assets are in The Woodlands, but he died in a hospital in Houston. Where and how can I probate my husband’s Will?
The Woodlands probate lawyer can assist you by filing an application to probate your husband’s Will in county court in Montgomery County.

What does “probate” mean?
“Probate” means the process by which a court determines whether a Will is valid or not. Sometimes the term refers to all of the proceedings dealing with estate administration.

My mother died without a will. She has a house in Houston, some bank accounts and some investments. What do I do?
A probate lawyer practicing in Harris County, may be able to help you by filing an Application for Determination of Heirship combined with an Application for Estate Administration.

What is a determination of Heirship proceeding?
An Heirship Determination is a process by which a court determines who the heirs are.

I am my mother’s only heir, why does the court need to determine who the heirs are?
The court requires evidence proving the identity of all of the heirs and, therefore, would appoint an attorney ad litem, who would represent the unknown heirs and those heirs that cannot be located.

What is an estate administration?
An estate administration is the process of gathering the decedent’s assets, paying his/her debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries named in the Will, or the heirs determined in the Heirship Proceeding.

Is the estate administration expensive?
It depends on the type of estate administration.  An Independent Administration does not require court supervision, therefore, the executor needs to go to court only once, and file a minimum amount of paperwork after that. The independent administration is speedy and cost effective.  A Dependent Administration, however, is court supervised and requires the administrator to attend several hearings in which the administrator requires court’s approval for every act taken, therefore, it is a long and expensive process.

I live in Houston.  How do I make sure that my estate is handled through an Independent Administration when I die?
The estate planning attorney in Houston can draft a will in such a way to provide for the estate administration to be handled without court supervision.

If my loved one did not include Independent Administration language in the will, is the Dependent Administration the only option?
Under certain conditions, a court may create an Independent Administration when all of distributes are in agreement even if such language is not included in the will.

My father passed away 6 years go. My mother continued to live in the house in The Woodlands, until she passed away 3 months ago. I found both Wills and I am the beneficiary under both. How can I transfer title to the house to myself?
You may contact a probate attorney in The Woodlands to file applications to probate your parents’ wills. Your father’s Will can only be probated as a Muniment of Title, because it is past the filing 4-year deadline from the date of his death.

Are Muniment of Title proceedings expensive?
They are usually less expensive than the other probate proceedings.

My mother died without a will in Montgomery County, Texas. She left a bank account and a paid car.  Would a Muniment of Title proceeding be appropriate?
No, a probate attorney cannot file for a Muniment of Title if there is no Will. If the bank account and the value of the car are under $50,000.00, your probate lawyer may be able to file a Small Estate Affidavit, which does not require an estate administration, therefore, keeping your legal costs low.

My mother appointed me executor on her Will.  She lives in Montgomery County. I have heard that being an executor is a lot of work. What are the typical duties for an executor of an estate in Montgomery County?
All probate and estate administration cases in Montgomery County are handled by County Court at Law Number Two. The judge of CCL#2 has posted a very helpful handbook on the court's website summarizing the duties of an executor in a Dependent Administration and those of an executor in an Independent Administration.

I am finished probating my brother's Will and now I need to set up guardianships for his two children. Where can I learn more about guardianship?

Visit  GUARDIANSHIP  page of this website for general information about Texas guardianships.

How can I learn more about estate administration and executor duties in Harris County? 
The judge of Probate Court No. 4 in Harris County has posted extensive information on her 
court's website about estate administration.

I have been involved in a long contested heirship case and I have learned the importance of having a valid Will. Where can I learn more about the types of Wills this law firm handles?

Visit  ESTATE PLANNING  page of this website to learn about Will drafting and other Estate Planning handled by this attorney.

Cases handled:The Probate Attorney handles Will Probate & Estate Administration, Independent Administration and Dependent Administration, Heirship Proceedings, Muniment of Title, and Small Estate cases, in Harris and Montgomery County courts.

Cases handled by Will Probate and Estate Administration Lawyer and FAQ