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How Long Do I Have to File for Probate in Texas?

How Long Do I Have to File for Probate in Texas?


Troy Moore

November 26, 2019

August 25, 2023

How Long Do I Have to File for Probate in Texas?

If a loved one or someone close to you dies, it’s normal to encounter difficult probate issues like the person’s estate administration. However, if that person leaves property that has not been passed to another person through a Trust, property in Texas can be distributed through probate.

Texas probate attorneys govern the whole probate process of distributing a person’s property after his death. If the deceased or the decedent dies leaving a written will, the Executor will file for probate. In Texas, our attorneys at law rules regulate the different time periods the representative must meet to probate a will.

Houston probate is a process whereby a court legally acknowledges the death of a person and supervises the settlement of the deceased person’s debts and the transfer of his or her property. The role of the court is to lead the entire probate process and, if possible, protect the interests of all the estate’s creditors and beneficiaries. The role of the Texas probate court is to facilitate this process called probate administration.

Texas probate law is very strict about the statute of limitations which imposes the time limits for probating a will. Alternatives may exist for wills that have expired. But in Houston, Texas, the statute of limitations for a will is four years. The probate law says that the executor must file for probation four years from the testator’s (the one who drafted the will) time of death. Generally, if the executor does not file the will within that specified period of time, the laws of intestacy (when there is no will) will control the distribution of the estate’s assets. In that case, it would be as though the person died without a will and the state would be the one to determine how the assets should be distributed to each heir. In related practice, probating a will in Texas is between two months and one year of the decedent’s death.

Nonetheless, the whole probate process can be completed only within six months for a simple estate. But, if the original will cannot be found, probate and estate administration takes a little longer but not by much. This complicates procedures more and will take longer due to the involvement of the court.

Take note: that while it takes several months to probate estates, beneficiaries should not be left without funds while probating an estate. During the process, assets are not allocated, but are transferred in some way. These certain assets are called non-probate estate. These assets are transferred directly to the beneficiary named in the account documents from the company or bank holding them.

Without a legal representation from a Houston Probate Attorney to assist you, the Texas probate process can be a challenging experience. Especially, if the estate is more than $50,000 and there are several beneficiaries in the will.

What if the value of the estate is minimal? Do I still have to go through estate planning and probate?

If the value of the estate is below the “small estate” limit in Texas which is $50,000, a simpler probate process called a “summary probate” may be used. You may only need to file a simple form or two and wait for a specific amount of time before distributing the property, rather than having a court hearing. It doesn’t matter if there was a will made or none.

Does the entire property go through probate when a person dies?

All real estate is subject to probate. Things like retirement accounts, life insurance proceeds, property held in a living trust, and funds in a POD bank account- don’t need to go through probate.

What Happens If A Will Is Not Probated In Texas?

A person drafts a will to divide their assets according to their wishes. Upon his/her death, this will be sent to the Texas probate court in the county where the deceased lived. In Houston, Texas, probate is done when the court acknowledges the death of a person and authorizes the distribution of his property as specified in his will, or by state law if no will is made.

Usually, going through the whole Texas probate process is a straightforward procedure as long as all rules are followed. However, if the rules are not followed–take for instance, by waiting too long to apply a will for probate- complications may occur. The state may even refuse to acknowledge that a will exists and divide estate according to intestate succession law.

The consequences of not probating a Will in the prescribed time include:

  • More complicated estate administration and proceedings
  • Probate disputes
  • More expenses
  • The deceased’s wishes may not be recognized at all.

Statute of Limitations for the Probate Process in Houston, Texas

The probate process begins when a beneficiary, heir or estate agent passes the will to the probate court in the county where the decedent lived. Together with a cover sheet, application, and death certificate. There are restrictions on how long a person can wait for the probate process to begin.

Section 73 of the Texas Probate Code says:

No will shall be permitted to probate after the lapse of four years from the testator’s date of death. Unless, it is shown by evidence that the party applying for trial wasn’t in default in failing to submit within the aforementioned years.

Intestate Succession Might Not Benefit the Heirs

Generally, if a will is not presented within four years from the deceased’s time of death, and no exceptions apply, assets owned by the deceased will be distributed according to the intestate succession laws of Texas. These are the same laws that are used to divide and distribute assets when no will exists.

Under intestate succession, Texas transfers the deceased’s property to the living heirs according to a formula based on their legal relationship to the deceased. Any special provisions will be completely ignored by the state despite the deceased’s wishes.

There are several reasons why a will is not usually submitted to probate court within the specific time period, such as:

  • The beneficiaries were unaware of the existence of the will
  • Or the will was unfortunately destroyed or lost.

Whatever the reasons, failing to submit a will for probate may lead to serious consequences for the estate of the beneficiaries or heirs.

If you intended to avoid submitting a will for probate, discuss your probate matters with an experienced probate lawyer at the Law Office of Troy M. Moore, PLLC. A will can be applied for probate, only under certain conditions after the four-year limit has expired.

Every probate situation is different, but an experienced Cypress, Northwest Houston, and Tomball probate attorney will analyze and examine your case’s facts and evidence and advise you on the best way to move forward.

When Can You Transfer Assets Without Going Through Probate Court?

In Texas, the law allows you to transfer some properties from the deceased to its new owner without going through probate court. These include: retirement accounts, life insurance proceeds, property held in a living trust, and funds in a POD bank account

  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Bank accounts structured as “POD,” or also known as Payable on Death
  • An annuity’s survivor benefits
  • Joint tenancy property when there’s a surviving joint tenant with the right of survivorship
  • Community property when there’s a living owner who has the right of survivorship

If the decedent’s estate falls within these categories, then there is no need to go to court. The first move is to get certified copies of the death certificate. Next is submit a claim with the life insurance company for the policy proceeds. Then, go to the bank to retitle your account. And submit a claim with the annuity provider for survivor benefits. And finally, go to the deed recorder to retitle joint owner or community property.

The Role of the Court

Once a will is probated, there are many different steps, conditions and deadlines to be followed before the assets are allocated and liabilities are paid. Take for example, many applications must be completed first to obtain the formal appointment of an executor and the selling of property or a family allowance. With the help of a skilled probate lawyer, these records can be submitted to the court.

The court will control all aspects of the Texas probate, whether or not an executor is appointed. The fair distribution of the decedent’s property is the sole focus of these forms of probate litigation and it must be done in the best interests of both the estate and the heirs.

Working with a Texas Probate Attorney

Majority of clients choose to work with an experienced Texas probate attorney to ensure the probate process goes smoothly. In addition to the time limit for probating a will in Texas, the process involves several complicated laws and procedures, which makes it very much important to hire an experienced and qualified legal representation. A proficient probate lawyer serving Houston, Texas should ease the Texas probate process so that, everything is carried-out efficiently.

Discuss Your Legal Matters To An Experienced Probate Attorney Straight Away!

After the death of a loved one, speak with an expert attorney at law at the Law Office of Troy M. Moore, PLLC for probate administration and Texas estate planning. For more than 19 years, Troy M. Moore has been serving Houston successful and devoted probate services helping clients in the related practice. Moore has been representing clients all over Houston, Texas as their reliable law attorney like they all deserve. Our certified lawyer in Houston will guide you and your family through all options of protecting and securing your loved one’s legacy.

At Troy M. Moore’s Law Firm in Houston, Texas, you can rest assured that your case is in the best hands. Give us a call today and dial 281-970-8039 at our Cypress / Tomball location. Begin discussing your estate plan and probate with a dedicated law attorney that will put you and your needs first. Schedule a free probate consultation now at the Law Office of Troy M. Moore, PLLC and avoid the risk of failing to probate a Will.

How Long Do I Have to File for Probate in Texas?

November 26, 2019

August 25, 2023

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