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What is the probate process?

Probate is a term that most people are familiar with, and most Texas residents know that it has to do with inheritance. Beyond that, though, many Texas do not know what is involved in probate proceedings or what exactly happens when an estate goes into probate. Strictly speaking, probate is a legal process that involves the court validating a will and supervising the distribution of a deceased person's property.

During probate proceedings, Texas courts will try to identify the decedent's wishes and carry them out. A will typically names an executor, who is charged with carrying out the terms of a last will and testament under the supervision of the court. The executor will also pay off outstanding debts with the estate assets. Finally, the court will direct the distribution of what is left in accordance with the existing will.

More specifically, here are the steps that usually take place after an estate goes into probate. First, an executor is appointed as the administrator of the estate. Next, the will is authenticated.

Then, the decedent's property will be inventoried. The decedent's beneficiaries and heirs will be identified. Any outstanding taxes and debts will be paid. Finally, what is left of the estate will be distributed.

When a Texas estate goes into probate, heirs and beneficiaries may require legal assistance in order to make sure they are fairly treated and receive their proper inheritance according to the will and/or the decedent's wishes. In some cases, a will is contested and heirs may engage in a legal fight over the validity of a will and/or over who gets what. This can certainly complicate probate proceedings, and it is best to handle these matters as strategically as possible to ensure that one's rightful inheritance is obtained.

Source: FindLaw, "What is probate?", , Sept. 4, 2014

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