The probate process is often the subject of wild rumors and cautionary tales of bureaucracy, red tape and endless byzantine legal proceedings. Fortunately, the stories are usually just that, stories, and the probate process itself is relatively easy to understand. If you need help with a Texas probate case you should talk to an experienced attorney for legal advice.
Probate In General
Probate laws apply once a person dies leaving behind property in Texas. The process in a nutshell is this: someone goes to the probate court to open a case, the probate judge determines if there is a valid last will and testament, the court appoints someone to tally up all estate property and start handing it out and then closes the case once this process is done. While some probate cases can get complicated, especially when there is property in multiple states or problems with a will, the process is usually fairly simple.
Because probate law doesn't generally affect you until after you die, there is little you can do to affect the process after it starts. However, there are steps you take during your lifetime that can make the process easier or harder for your heirs or beneficiaries. Creating a last will and testament, for example, is easily done. If you name someone to act as your executor--the person who handles the probate case--who has experience with the probate process, the process is much more likely to go smoothly and to be problem-free.
A last will and testament, usually just called a will or last will, is the one area of probate law that most people have heard about or may have experience with. Texas allows any adult of sound mind to create a will and dictate how property is to be passed on. As long as you remain of sound mind, you can change your will at any time.
While it sounds similar, a living will is a very different from a last will and testament. A living will only gets used when you are alive, while a last will and testament only gets used after you die. Living wills are not a part of the probate process and cannot be used as a substitute for a last will and testament. However, living wills do let you express your desires about health care concerns when you are sick, and serve an important role in any estate plan.
Roger Thorne is an attorney who began freelance writing in 2003. He has written for publications ranging from "MotorHome" magazine to "Cruising World." Thorne specializes in writing for law firms, Web sites, and professionals. He has a Juris Doctor from the University of Kansas.