Wills & Probate Attorney in Katy
Serving Families throughout Sugar Land and the Surrounding Areas
Estate planning is an undoubtedly complex area of the law, but it is also a vitally important one. It is in your best interests to retain an attorney who can help you navigate the processes that will set you up for future success.
At Barker Law Firm PC, we offer a wide range of estate planning services and can assist you with matters involving wills and probate. Our firm brings over 20 years of experience to your case. You can count on our Katy wills and probate attorney to represent and guide you effectively.
Last Will & Testament
The foundation of a good estate plan is your will, more formally known as a last will and testament. Having a will is important for many reasons. Your will identifies the people who will inherit your property after you die. Some people want their spouse to inherit everything; others want to split their assets between their spouse and their siblings. Some people want to leave everything to one or more charitable organizations. Others want close friends to receive certain items. Whatever your wishes may be, you need a valid will to ensure that your survivors know what to do with your estate.
Your will is also the document that will appoint a trusted person to be the executor or representative of your estate. It is the document in which many people choose to name the guardian for their minor children as well as a trustee for any property that minor children may inherit.
Many people assume that only very wealthy people need to have a will, but this is simply untrue. Because most people's estates will end up in probate, having a will is vitally important and will save your family significant expenses in probating your estate.
Probate is the judicial process by which a decedent's estate is administered. You have probably read articles or heard people say that probate is a burdensome process that should be avoided at all costs. This is simply not accurate. Texas estate law allows for minimal court supervision, especially if the decedent had a valid, properly drafted will. Decedents' estates can go through probate even if the decedent did not leave a will, but a will typically makes the process simpler and more cost-effective. In fact, most people's estates will require some type of probate to transfer title to real property, among other things. Even if the decedent did not own much property, sometimes probate administrations must be established to protect the rights of the decedent's family, such as if the decedent was killed due to someone else’s negligence.
Probate of a Will
If your loved one passed away and left a will, it should be offered for probate. This raises the question of who should bring the application to probate the will. Only certain people have the standing to apply for probate. Most often, the person named as executor (or executrix) in the will is the applicant.
Following the filing of the application, the probate court will hold a hearing to determine if the will is valid and if the named executor is qualified to serve the estate. If the court approves the application and finds that the executor is qualified, it will issue letters testamentary to give the executor the power to represent and administer the decedent's estate.
Declaration of Heirship
If your loved one passed away without a will, the probate court will have to do a declaration of heirship in conjunction with the appointment of an estate administrator. The heirship determination process serves to identify who the lawful heirs of the decedent are. Under Texas estate law, the surviving spouse and surviving children (whether biological or adopted) of the decedent are lawful heirs. Other surviving relatives such as parents, siblings, and even nieces, nephews, or cousins, may also be heirs depending on the situation and the character of the decedent's property.
Because heirship can become very complicated depending on the decedent's unique family situation, the court is required by law to appoint an attorney ad litem to investigate and determine if there are any heirs other than the ones identified by the applicant.
Once the attorney ad litem and the court are satisfied that all lawful heirs have been identified and given proper notice of the probate proceedings, the court can issue an official order declaring the heirs of the estate. The court can then also appoint an estate representative, called an administrator (as opposed to an executor). The administrator, like an executor, has the power to represent and administer the decedent's estate.
To learn more about how we can help you with wills and probate in Katy, call Barker Law Firm PC at (713) 597-3911.