Probate is the legal process by which an estate is administered and the property of the deceased is transferred to the person’s heirs. If the person died with a valid will, the assets must be disposed of pursuant to the terms and conditions of the will after debts and taxes are first paid. If a Texas resident dies without a will (referred to as dying “intestate”), Texas statutes provide who is entitled to inherit property from such person.
One of the critical parts of probate concerns the appointment of a personal representative. The personal representative has the legal duty and authority to oversee the administration of the estate and the distribution of estate assets in accordance with the will (if a valid will exists), or in accordance with Texas statutes (if no will exists).
Typically if a person dies with a will, a personal representative is designated in the will. If a personal representative is not designated, or if the person dies intestate, situations may arise in which more than one person seeks to be named as the personal representative for the estate.
Because the personal representative’s duties extend to the administration of the entire an estate, the actions taken by a personal representative can ultimately affect the value of the estate. The larger the estate, and the more complex the estate assets are, the more significant that the actions of the personal representative will have on value of the estate to be distributed to beneficiaries.
In Texas, personal representatives serve as fiduciaries in the administration of an estate. They must not favor themselves or any other beneficiary over another beneficiary. They must take care to ensure that the legitimate claims against the estate are paid (including any final taxes that are due) before any distributions are made.
Personal representatives must also take actions that are prudent to ensure that the estate assets are preserved. For instance, if there is substantial equity in a house and sufficient cash available, the personal representative should ensure that mortgage payments and taxes for the house continue to be paid.
If you desire to be named as a personal representative, or have a concern about how a personal representative is administering an estate, please call our firm. Our two partners have represented clients in will contests, probate and trust disputes, and other estate-related matters for more than 50 years combined. We are available to represent clients in probate dispute matters throughout Texas.
We can meet with you at your convenience so we may learn about your matter. At this meeting, we can explain how we can help if you desire to retain our firm. In most probate dispute matters, it’s usually helpful to engage legal counsel as soon as possible so that potentially adverse actions can be prevented if possible.