When your loved one passes away, you need to go through a process called probate. This is when you have to gather all of your loved one’s assets and put them into something called an estate. Once this is done, any creditors of the estate can file a claim demanding payment of any outstanding debts. Finally, once this is completed, you can distribute any remaining assets to the decedent’s heirs. This process can be time consuming and can take a while. A small estate in Houston can take much longer than a year to resolve.
The general rule is, the more assets someone has, the longer it takes to resolve the estate. Assets have to be appraised. Creditors’ claims may have to be negotiated or validated. And it takes time to do these things. That’s why you should retain an experienced probate lawyer in Houston. They can handle this process for you and deal with both the creditors and the courts.
There are situations when you don’t have to go through the long, drawn out estate process. If you qualify for a small estate, the process is much simple. In Texas, the decedent’s assets must be less than $75,000 in order to qualify for a small estate. Your Houston probate lawyer can review your case and let you know if this is an option.
What is a Small Estate?
A small estate is basically what it sounds like. It’s an estate that is so small the courts don’t require you to complete the detailed probate process. Some states consider $150,000 to be a small estate. Other states have even higher limits. In Texas, the limit for a small estate is only $75,000.
This may sound like a lot of money. And, for a lot of families, it is. The truth is, when a lot of us die, we won’t have $75,000 worth of assets. If you own your house outright, your assets may exceed the $75,000 cap. Or if you have a lot of investments that you’ve accrued over the course of your life, you won’t be able to take advantage of a small estate.
If your loved one had less than $75,000 in assets, you can petition the court to open a small estate. If it’s approved, there is a very short process you have to complete to close the estate. It can be done within a month or two as opposed to a year or two.
What is the Process to Open a Small Estate in Houston?
The process for opening a small estate in Houston, Texas is not that complicated. However, that doesn’t mean you should try to handle it yourself. When you’re grieving, the last thing you should be doing is handling legal matters on your own. Your Houston probate lawyer can help you every step of the way.
The process for opening a small estate is as follows:
- File a petition with the court to open a small estate
- Submit supporting documents including a will, a list of heirs and a list of assets
- Wait for the mandatory waiting period to expire. During this time, creditors can file claims against the estate and demand payment.
- Pay any outstanding debts and taxes
- Distribute any remaining assets to the rightful heirs
- Close the estate
The process does sound simple. And, it may be for an experienced probate lawyer in Houston. They have handled dozens of cases just like yours. They know the ins and outs of the probate process. They also know how to navigate the county courts.
Are Certain Assets Excluded from a Small Estate in Houston?
There are certain assets that are not included in the small estate. Your probate attorney doesn’t have to list these assets when they’re determining if the value of the estate is less than $75,000.
Some of the assets excluded from your loved one’s estate include:
- Property held in trust
- Any property held in joint tenancy with another person
- Any bank account held in joint tenancy
These assets will not be counted for purposes of qualifying for a small estate in Houston.
Contact an Experienced Probate Lawyer in Houston
If your loved one has passed away, you may have to open an estate. If you’re listed as the executor, it will be your responsibility to handle the probate process. If this is the case, you should call an experienced probate lawyer in Houston right away.
Call Eddington & Worley today. Our attorneys will help guide you through the probate process. They can also check to see if you qualify for a small estate.