Houston Probate Lawyer

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When someone you love dies, the last thing you’re thinking about is their will. You don’t even know what you’re supposed to do. You focus on grieving and taking care of the funeral arrangements. However, if you’re named the administrator of your parent’s estate, you’re going to need a Houston probate lawyer.

Legally, when someone dies, you’re supposed to open something called an estate. The estate is basically all the assets your loved one had when they passed. It includes property, bank accounts, and personal possessions.

Most people draft a will while they’re still alive. This makes the probate process a lot easier. It means you don’t have any question as to who gets what. Your loved one includes all of this information in his will. It outlines exactly who is entitled to all of the assets.

When there isn’t a will, it can get complicated. Then your Houston probate lawyer will have to determine, under Texas law, who is entitled to what. , when there is a will, people still fight over their inheritance. 

Houston family lawyers can handle all of this for you. They’ll open up an estate and deal with all the creditors of the estate. Creditors are basically people or companies who claim they were owed money by your loved one. They all have to be paid before the family receives their inheritance.

Call a probate lawyer to learn how they serve as a referee in disputed cases. When several people claim they’re entitled to certain assets, your Houston probate lawyer can handle these disputes. They’ll try to reason with everyone involved and come up with a solution that is fair. 

Your Probate Attorney in Houston Knows What to Do When Someone Dies

There are a few things that need to be done when someone dies in Texas. The first thing you need to do is get a death certificate. You then need to send a copy of the death certificate to certain parties, including:

  • Major creditors such as mortgage companies, car finance companies, stock and bond companies, etc.
  • The life insurance company
  • Pension company
  • Veterans Administration

Your probate attorney can make sure all of the right people get this information. In order to receive the life insurance proceeds, you’ll have to make sure they get an accurate death certificate. Once they receive this, they send the check to whoever is named the beneficiary on the policy.

After the death certificates have been mailed, your Texas probate attorney will have to open an estate for the decedent.

How Does a Probate Attorney Open and Manage an Estate?

Opening an estate can be different depending on your county. Generally speaking, in Houston you just need to go to the Surrogate’s Court and ask to open an estate. There are forms that need to be filled out. There really aren’t any hearings or court dates to open an estate.

Over the next several months, your probate attorney in Houston will start gathering assets. He’ll figure out what your loved one owned. This may include any of the following:

Real property

This includes the place where your loved one lived. It may also include rental and vacation properties. It can even include things like a timeshare.

This image shows a home.
Chances are your loved ones home will contribute to the majority of the estate’s value.

Personal Property

The largest personal assets are usually vehicles. Your attorney will find out which cars are owned and which are still financed. Financed vehicles will have to be surrendered. You can’t sell or devise a car that still belongs to the bank. 

Other Personal Possessions

Depending on the situation, your loved one could have owned many other personal possessions. Of note would be valuable artwork, jewelry, antiques, etc. 

Bank Accounts, Cash, and Stock Certificates

It’s easy to find out how much someone had in the bank when they died. It can be a lot harder to figure out where they had their investments. Your Houston probate lawyer can rely on financial professionals to help him do this.

Heirlooms

Even more than money, a lot of family members fight over heirlooms. Things that carry sentimental value can be the hardest things to distribute.

Your lawyer has plenty of time to determine the value of the estate. With the help of the administrator of the estate, he can do this by the deadline. In Texas, you have at least six (6) months to do this. This is why creditors aren’t allowed to file claims against the estate until it has been open at least six (6) months.

Does a Probate Lawyer Negotiate with Creditors of the Estate?

As soon as creditors find out your loved one has died, they’ll crawl out of the woodwork. Anyone your loved one owed money to will start calling. They’ll send a letter asking that the debt be paid. Even creditors that you haven’t heard from in years will stand up and take notice.

This is because they know it’s their last chance to get paid. If they don’t file a claim against the estate, they lose their right to collect the debt. As soon as the time to file claims opens up, they’ll file a claim for the balance in full.

The good news is that a lot of creditors are more than willing to settle their debts. They know that there is a chance there won’t be enough assets to pay all the creditors. This means they’re willing to settle claims for a lot less than what’s owed.

In this day and age, many banks hire outside companies to handle their estate claims. Once a customer dies, they close their account and send it to their probate department. Their probate specialists will then reach out to the family members. If they have the administrator or probate attorney’s information, they’ll contact them directly. 

Your Houston probate attorney will negotiate with the creditors. They’ll collect all of the information on potential creditors. They’ll look to see how much is owed in all. They’ll then make a settlement offer to all the creditors. This offer will be something called a pro-rata payment offer. 

The pro-rata offer will be based on how much is owed compared to the assets. Let’s say that there are $100,000 in assets but your loved one owed $300,000 in debt. Your probate attorney knows that nobody is going to get more than 1/3 of what was owed. So it makes sense to offer them all a low settlement offer to settle their claim. 

If the creditors are smart, they’ll take the offer. They risk getting nothing if they wait for the claim to naturally close. By the time secured creditors are paid, there may be no money left. Secured creditors include the following:

  • Mortgage companies
  • Car finance companies
  • Banks who own personal loans tied to collateral
  • IRS tax liens
  • Judgments and other liens
This image shows an IRS tax form.
An IRS tax lien falls under a secured creditor.

These creditors are paid before the credit card companies. Your Houston probate lawyer understands this process. Let him handle this while you and your family get over your loss.

Call a Probate Attorney in Houston To Schedule Your Consultation 

When someone close to us dies, such as a parent, the last thing we want to deal with are legal issues. We don’t care that our mom owed a department store a few hundred bucks. We’re sad and we’re grieving. We will not be in the mood to deal with phone calls and letters that flood in after the funeral.

Thankfully, there are experienced probate attorneys in Houston, Texas who can handle these things for you. Probate attorneys specialize in this sort of thing. They spend their whole careers handling estate matters. 

If your parent had a probate attorney draw up their will, this may be the first attorney you think to call when they die. However, keep in mind, they could have had their will drafted decades ago. Odds are, that law firm isn’t there anymore. Or, the attorney who handled your parents’ affairs is long retired. 

Schedule your Free Consultation Today

To make things easier on your family, contact a probate attorney in Houston. Make an appointment to sit down with him and ask any questions you may have. It’s a good idea to take the following with you when you first meet:

  • a copy of your loved one’s will
  • Any bills or debt notices you’ve received
  • a copy of the life insurance policy
  • a copy of the death certificate
  • Any information you have about major assets and debts

Your Houston family law attorney can review this information. It gives him an idea of what your case may entail. Some probate cases are short and sweet. If there aren’t a lot of assets or debts, it can be wrapped up within about eight (8) months. Other cases are more complicated and can take a year or longer to resolve.

Call and schedule your consultation today. Let an experienced Houston Family Lawyer at Eddington & Worley handle the probate process for you. It’s time you and your family focus on healing.