Many clients are unfamiliar with probate and the legal issues surrounding the death of a loved one, which is to be expected. In most cases, our clients have never had to work through these legal issues before, and may only encounter them once or twice in their lifetimes when a loved one becomes incapacitated or dies. At Skillern Firm, we are here to guide you with compassion and experience through this unfamiliar legal process.
By definition, a probate is a judicial process that a will undergoes before it is accepted as a legal public document. In the absence of a will, however, an estate is settled according to the laws of intestacy in the state of residence of the deceased at time of death.
The probate process is comprised of many different aspects which can easily overwhelm the family of the deceased. But all of these can be eased by hiring a reliable, skilled probate lawyers in Houston.
Aspects of a Probate Process
Probate Administration: Once an individual passes away, probate administration is often necessary to locate assets, pay debts and distribute property to the correct individuals. Just like each loved one is not the same, the probate process following death is not the same. During your time of grief, Skillern Firm will allow you to focus on your loved ones, while our probate lawyers in Houston focuses on ensuring all aspects of the probate process that are applicable to your unique circumstances are handled professionally and properly. Our probate lawyers in Houston counsel with and guide family members, executors, trustees, heirs, beneficiaries, surviving spouses and children through the probate process. From filing paperwork with the Clerk of the court to representation in probate court, we are here for you from start to finish.
Probate Litigation: Unfortunately, even when a will is left behind, disputes often arise as to the validity of the will or the terms of the will or trust. If you are looking for advice on how to contest a will in Texas, reach out to one or our probate lawyers in Houston to learn about your rights. In situations where your loved one did not leave a will, our attorneys can help ensure that heirs are located and that the process is handled with attention and guidance. In all instances, a probate litigator from our firm will explain and explore all possible options with you. People often come to us prior to the death of a loved one to explore their options, to learn how to prepare themselves or their families to reduce legal costs and position themselves in the best way should a will or estate dispute arise.
Guardianship: At a point in time an individual may become unable to care for himself or herself, or may no longer be able to manage his or her affairs for a variety of reasons: health, incapacitating injury, illness. A guardian is an individual who is vested with legal authority to make decisions and care for another person. In other instances, a minor child may need a guardian because his or her parents are deceased. In other guardianship matters, the Firm is often engaged to seek or defend against a guardianship. Sometimes a court appointed guardian needs representation as well, and we are here to assist in all aspects of guardianship proceedings including preparing inventories and accountings. Regardless of the circumstances, a guardianship attorney can help provide assistance though this legal process.
Estate Planning: Our team of experienced probate lawyers in Houston can help you if you have a non-taxable estate to ease the burden on loved ones when it’s your time to go. It may not be easy to think about the future, but the relief your family will feel knowing that your wishes are clear will make all the difference. We offer Estate Planning packages for a flat fee. Our Estate Planning packages include the preparation of:
A last will and testament – This legal document allows you, the testator, to express your wishes as to how your property is to be distributed at your death, and names one or more persons, the executor(s), to manage your estate until its final distribution. We also offer the option to create a simple trust for beneficiaries to ensure your intent is carried to fruition;
Medical Directive or Living Will – This legal document allows you to state your choices for medical treatment before you actually need such care and will arm your loved ones with the information they need to ensure your wishes are carried out;
Medical Power of Attorney – This legal document gives a trusted person the authority to make health care and medical decisions when you are no longer able to make them for yourself;
Declaration of Guardianship – This legal document states the name(s) of a chosen loved one to manage your affairs in the event you become unable to do so for yourself;
HIPAA Release – The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act is a legal document that will allow your chosen loved one to obtain your medical information on your behalf. It was created to prevent your health care provider from releasing any of your health information to anyone unless you provide a signed copy of this form.
Getting into the Probate Process
There are several parties involved or that must be notified when the probate process begins. This step alone can take a significant amount of time. Our probate lawyers in Houston have the experience to provide a realistic timeline at which our clients can base their expectations upon.
Other steps include:
- Provide a copy of the Will and/or codicil to the court.
- Identify all properties that are stated in the will and their corresponding values. Probate lawyers in Houston usually take inventory of all the assets involved and appraise them.
- Notify creditors and publish legal notices.
- Notify all beneficiaries to the estate or will.
- Provide executors of the will a clear guide on how and when assets are to be distributed while taking into consideration the rights of the creditors.
- If necessary, submit a petition to appoint a personal representative which should be filed together with the letters of administration which should be issued.
Probate lawyers in Houston will commit to do the following:
- Submit an application to probate the decedent’s will.
- Attend hearings. Probate lawyers in Houston also have to convince the court of the necessity to validate the decedent’s death and admit the will to probate.
- Establish an allowance for the decedent’s family by submitting an application.
- Look into any estate taxes, gift taxes or inheritance taxes should the estate exceed certain thresholds.
What to expect in a Probate Process
There are time factors involved in filing and objecting to claims against the estate. And time is what most families of the deceased do not have. During the probate process, a lot of circumstances could arise as a result of the proceedings. Probate lawyers in Houston often anticipate these situations given their relative experience on probate process.
Such circumstances are:
- There may be a lawsuit involving the deceased which are still pending at the time of death. In this case, separate procedures are required to process these contentious probate cases.
- The sale of assets like real estate or other property which could be necessary to pay off debts or to achieve the correct distribution of assets pursuant to the will.
- The costs of the administration including ordinary taxation such as income tax on interest and property taxation is deducted from assets in the estate before distribution by the executors of the will.
- Assets such as life insurance may need to be transferred from the deceased to the beneficiaries.
At Skillern Firm, we understand how legal processes can often dissuade you from making certain that the last will and testament of a loved one is executed properly. Please call our office to see what we could prepare for you.