Requirement to File a Will After Death in Texas

By Tom Streissguth

On the death of a Texas resident, the laws of probate court govern the handling of wills. Probate is the process of "proving" that the will is valid, and that its instructions conform to the law. During the probate process, the court grants letters of administration to the executor, and oversees the handling of the estate. The case begins with the filing of the will in the probate court having jurisdiction in the county where the deceased lived.

Types of Probate

Texas law provides for three different forms of probate. Supervised probate involves the court and the presiding judge throughout the process. The executor must submit a detailed inventory and account for the distribution of all assets to the heirs. An independent or unsupervised probate case allows the executor to carry out these tasks free of court oversight, with only basic forms on the process filed with the court. Executors may also file an application for informal probate within 30 days of the death of the testator (the author of the will). For informal probae, Texas law requires that all debts of the estate must be paid, and there must be no contest of the will or litigation among the beneficiaries.


To open a probate case, the executor or another representative of the estate must file an application as well as the will with the probate court. Texas law requires a waiting period of at least two weeks before a hearing can be held on the application. The clerk of court notifies the public with a posting at the courthouse, allowing anyone with an interest in the proceeding to come forward and either contest the will or the appointment of the executor. At the hearing, the court will rule on the validity of the will filed with the application, and on the necessity of administration and/or supervision of the process by the court. The court can also rule that the deceased died intestate, or without a valid will.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan

Local Rules

Probate courts may write and enforce their own rules, while always conforming with state law. Most Texas counties require that the executor of an estate be represented by an attorney, to ensure that the executor capably carries out his task. According to state law, executors must also notify all creditors of the estate of the probate case, and file an inventory of all estate assets with the probate court. The executor has 90 days after his appointment to file this inventory.

Deadline for Filing

Anyone possessing a will must deliver that will to the probate court within four years of the death of the deceased. Failure to do so can result in a summons from the clerk of court and an order to show cause why the will has not been filed. If no will is forthcoming, and the court has reason to believe the respondent is in possession of the will, the court may issue a contempt citation and an arrest warrant. Texas law bars the court from issuing any letters of administration when a will has not been filed within the four-year deadline. If a four-year period has passed and no will has been presented, any party may file an application to the probate court for a proceeding to determine heirship. Instead of appointing an administrator to handle the estate, the court has the authority to declare who the legal heirs of the estate are, and what their rightful inheritances should be, according to state law.

Protect your loved ones. Start My Estate Plan
Who Enforces the Execution of a Will?


Related articles

New York Estate Law When the Executor Dies

New York, like all other states, recognizes a written will as the proper method for making your wishes known as to the distribution of your assets when you die. The executor is the person named in the will to see that the terms of the will are carried out. If an executor dies before she has completed her duties, the court must appoint a new executor.

What Is the Act or Process of Proving the Validity of a Will?

Before a court can probate a will, it must determine that the will is valid and authentic. Although laws vary from state to state, proving the validity of a will generally entails ensuring that it was created and signed by the person executing the will, called the "testator," and that it complies with state law. In most states, a will can be prepared in a way that eliminates any additional action on the part of the executor during the probate process.

What Happens When an Executor of a Will Doesn't Carry Out What the Will Asks For?

A last will and testament represents the final wishes of a deceased person, and laws are in place to ensure that the instructions set out in the will are actually carried out. While these laws vary by state, you will find that every state regulates how a will is administered and who is responsible for it.

LegalZoom. Legal help is here. Start Here. Wills. Trusts. Attorney help.

Related articles

The Amount of Time Allowed to Probate a Will in Pennsylvania

State laws vary with regard to probate. Probate is a judicial process where a special court oversees the administration ...

Can a Non-Lawyer Bring a Will to Probate Court?

Probate is the process of ensuring a will's validity and carrying out the instructions it contains. The probate process ...

What Happens if an Executor Refuses to Probate?

An executor has a duty to act in the best interest of the estate, and refusing to probate an estate may be cause for ...

Do All Wills Have to Be Probated in Oklahoma?

Probate is the legal process where a court oversees the administration of a person’s estate after death. It typically ...

Browse by category
Ready to Begin? GET STARTED