Time to Probate a Will in Texas

By Joseph Scrofano

A Texas decedent's estate must be probated under most circumstances. To go through probate, the will's personal representative, or executor, must file it for probate in the county in which the testator resided at the time of death. In Texas, the personal representative usually has four years to probate the will.

Personal Representative

The personal representative owes what the law calls a “fiduciary duty” to the estate. In other words, the personal representative must at all times act in the estate’s best interest. The personal representative is responsible for taking inventory of the estate’s assets, paying all creditors and taxes, and then using the remaining proceeds to distribute the estate’s assets according to the instructions in the will.

Probate Court

Probate courts are special courts with judges who oversee how the personal representative administers the estate. A probate judge makes sure that the personal representative follows Texas laws and pays all necessary taxes. When parties dispute an aspect of the will or estate administration, and the personal representative cannot resolve the dispute, a probate judge may adjudicate the dispute.

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Notice

Once the personal representative files the petition, the law considers the estate to be “open.” The personal representative must then publish an Official Notice to Creditors in the local newspaper and send a Notice of Administration to all interested parties, which may include creditors, named beneficiaries and other family members. Interested parties then have a set period of time to make claims against the estate.

Discharge

Once the personal representative inventories the estate, pays all debts and distributes the assets consistent with the will’s instructions, she may then file a petition for discharge to have the probate judge close the estate -- but only as long as any and all disputes have been resolved. The estate can still be probated if the personal representative fails to file for probate within a four-year period. However, the procedure is much more complicated, as in addition to the deadline for beginning the probate process, Texas law imposes several time requirements for each step of the process.

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Arkansas Will and Testament Filing

In Arkansas, as in most states, the probate process begins with filing the deceased’s will. It is a necessary first step before any payment of the deceased’s debts and distribution of his property to his beneficiaries can begin. The Circuit Court in the county where the testator lived when he passed away oversees probate. The court permits jury trials in the event of a dispute, and can punish anyone who doesn’t cooperate with the probate process with contempt of court.

The Massachusetts Guardian Ad Litem Requirements Statute

A guardian ad litem provides information and assistance to courts in disputes relating to family or probate matters. Three main categories of guardian ad litem exist in Massachusetts: an investigator, an evaluator and a “next friend.” The court appoints an investigator to look into facts relating to a family or probate dispute. A guardian ad litem-evaluator often carries out psychological testing or clinical assessment. If a guardian ad litem acts as a “next friend,” he typically represents the interests of a minor child or incapacitated person.

Timeframe for Probating a Will

Probate exists not only to simplify the process of distributing the assets of a deceased person, known as the decedent, but also to ensure that creditors receive the payments to which they are entitled from the decedent's estate. A personal representative, also known as an executor, works with the probate court to distribute assets according to the decedent's wishes. State laws dictate how long an estate can remain in probate.

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