When someone dies, their estate generally must go through probate. Probate is the process whereby an executor is appointed and given letters testamentary by a court enabling the executor to legally enforce the decedent's will and act the decedent's behalf. If someone died without a will, an administrator is appointed instead. Both the executor and administrator are responsible to transfer title to the property the decedent owned, access and distribute the decedent's bank accounts to the heirs, and wrap up the decedent's other affairs.
If a decedent dies owning a home or land, the heirs usually cannot sell the property until the decedent's estate is probated. Furthermore, unless the decedent's bank accounts specify a pay on death beneficiary, only the executor or administrator appointed by the court can access the funds to distribute them to the heirs. Often it isn't till an heir tries to sell land or access a bank account that they realize the decedent's estate needs to be probated.
Under Texas Law, a will must be probated within 4 years from the date the decedent died, otherwise an executor cannot be appointed. This increases the need for family members to get accurate legal advice as soon as possible after a loved one dies.
At The Voeller Law Firm, we specialize in the following areas of practice:
Veterans Benefits Planning