How Is Someone Disqualified to Probate an Estate in Texas?

By Jennifer Williams

The administrator of a deceased person's estate, also called the estate's executor, has the important and sensitive position of distributing a person's assets after his death. This position is sensitive as well because the administrator has access to the estate's assets, and some assets that can devalue quickly if mismanaged. Because of the importance of this position, states have laws in place to ensure that administrators act properly. Texas law enumerates the circumstances in which an individual may be disqualified from acting as administrator. When an individual meets any of these conditions, he can be disqualified from probating an estate in the Texas probate courts.

Estate Administrator

Anyone may probate a Texas estate as long as he or she does not meet any of the disqualification criteria provided by state statute. An estate administrator is legally obligated to act in the best interests of the estate. An individual probating an estate guides the estate through the probate process by notifying the deceased's relatives, auditing estate assets, paying creditors and winding up the deceased's final financial business. During probate, the administrator must preserve the condition and value of estate assets, and cannot use them for personal gain. After probate, the administrator distributes any remaining estate assets to the deceased's heirs, or beneficiaries named in his will if one exists. An individual is disqualified from acting in this position of trust if he meets any of the conditions listed in the state's disqualification statute.

Incapacitated Persons

Texas prohibits any incapacitated person from probating an estate. In Texas, "incapacitated" means anyone under 18 years of age or anyone physically or mentally unable to care for himself. Individuals who are entitled to money from any governmental source that requires the individual to have a legally appointed guardian in order to receive that money are also considered incapacitated.

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Felony Conviction

Texas law disqualifies anyone who has been convicted of a felony from probating an estate. The felony conviction may stem from a violation of federal law or the law of any state. An exception is made for individuals who have been pardoned or who have had their civil rights restored, by whatever legal process is required by the convicting jurisdiction.

Non-Resident Without Appointed Registered Agent

Anyone who wants to probate a Texas estate but who does not live in Texas must appoint someone who lives within the state to receive notice of any lawsuits brought against the estate. This appointed individual is known as a resident agent, and his name and address must be filed with the probate court. If an out-of-state individual does not have a resident agent on file with the court, he may not probate a Texas estate.

Corporation Authorized as Fiduciary

A corporation is disqualified from acting as an estate administrator if it is not authorized to act as a fiduciary within the state. In other words, the corporation must be authorized to take responsibility for estate assets as trustee. Foreign corporations, which means those not formed under Texas law, must first file with the Texas Secretary of State for permission to act as a fiduciary. A Texas corporation is already registered with the Texas Secretary of State and may skip this step. Any corporation wanting to act as estate administrator must also ask the probate court for permission to act in that capacity. Permission must be granted by the court before a corporation may probate a Texas estate.

Probate Court Determination

The statute includes a catch-all, and disqualifies anyone from probating a Texas estate that the court deems unsuitable. The term "unsuitable" is not defined by the statute, but decisions from the Texas probate courts suggest that an unsuitable individual is one who has admitted or demonstrated through past behavior a willingness and intention to use estate assets for his own personal gain or to coerce any individual with an interest in the estate to approve transactions that are not in the best interest of those who stand to inherit. The court's determination of unsuitability may only be overturned on appeal if it was not based on any standard of suitable conduct for an estate administrator.

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