As Probate Lawyers, we hear many questions from people who are confused by what “probate” is and what the process entails. Below are some of our answers to the most frequently asked questions about Probate Law:
What is “Probate?”
A: Probate is the process of administering an estate (i.e. all assets and liabilities) of a deceased person by settling all claims and then distributing the deceased person’s assets to the heirs and/or beneficiaries.
My Loved One Just Died? Do I really need to probate my family member’s estate?
A: Yes. It is extremely important that you probate the estate so that you can legally transfer all of the assets of your family member. For instance, many types of property (including a house and other real property) cannot be transferred without the court order of a probate judge.
Can I Transfer My Loved One’s Assets without going to Court?
A: No. Unfortunately, in order to transfer those assets, you must go to court in most situations.
Will I need an Attorney to help me probate my loved one’s estate?
A: Yes. In most counties (including Dallas), the probate court judges require that you have an attorney represent you in order to probate the estate. But this is not a bad thing—probate is very complicated, and having an attorney guide you will make a huge difference in helping you be able to transfer property easily and efficiently.
What type of Attorney can help me in probating the estate?
A: It is important to find an attorney that specializes in probate law. Many lawyers incorrectly advise their clients about probate law because it is not an area that most lawyers ever practice in or study deeply. Therefore, it is important to search for a lawyer who has already handled probate cases like yours, and who can help guide you through this process.
What type of documents will my attorney need to be able to help probate the estate?
A: You will need to give your attorney the following documents:
- Your Loved One’s Will, if they had a Will
- A copy of their life insurance policies, if any
- A list of all of their assets (e.g. bank accounts, home, cars, retirement accounts, boats, etc.)
- A list of all close relatives (including spouse, children, adopted children, grandchildren, and former spouses)
- A list of any known debts (including mortgages, credit card bills, bank loans, etc.)
What will I need to do to apply to probate my loved one’s estate?
A: First, your attorney will help you file an Application to Probate the Will (or, if there is no Will, an Application to Probate the Estate). This Application will list a proposed Executor or Administrator for the Estate (i.e. a person who will be responsible for wrapping up the affairs of the estate, paying creditors, and transferring property to the beneficiaries). Once the court names an Executor or Administrator for the estate, your attorney will then work with you to pay creditors, file an inventory of the estate, and distribute assets to the heirs or beneficiaries of the deceased person.
How much will this court procedure cost?
A: The costs vary depending on whether your loved one had a Will or not. If your loved one had a Will, the total cost to probate the estate will be around $1,500-$2,000 in most cases. However, if your loved one did not have a Will, the total cost to probate the estate can vary widely.
What is the end result of all this court action?
A: After going through all of this, the Executor or Administrator of your loved one’s estate will have the power to do the following: 1) Pay your loved one’s remaining debts, 2) Reimburse family members for the cost of the funeral, burial, etc., and 3) Disburse your loved one’s property to the beneficiaries listed in the Will (or, if there is no Will, to your loved one’s heirs). While all of this court action and supervision may seem unnecessary in situations where all the family members are in agreement, state law requires that every estate go through these procedures to ensure that property is properly transferred and that all the person’s heirs are protected as much as possible.
If you have had a loved one die recently, and would like to talk with a Dallas Probate Attorney, we would be glad to help. Give us a call today at 214-886-7633