Experienced Houston Probate Attorney

Houston’s probate procedure transfers property from the decedent to the heirs. This process may seem complicated and overwhelming for someone already dealing with painful emotions such as grief and loss. Probate proceedings can be a distracting nuisance if you don’t have a good understanding of how it works. However, having a trusted probate attorney by your side can make it less stressful.

Experienced Houston probate Attorney Whitney L. Thompson understands what you’re going through. As a skilled estate planning lawyer, Attorney Thompson has represented many clients on the same path that you are about to take. Our team of legal professionals, along with attorney Thompson, are here to help you navigate the process. We will work hard to ensure that you get everything you deserve and with minimal hassle. You can trust us to fight against greedy executors and creditors as well as any other person who wants to seize control of the estate.

Call us today at (281) 214-0173 to schedule a consultation.

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What is Probate?

Probate refers to the legal procedure by which a will of a decedent is authenticated, administered, and properly divided according to its terms. If the decedent dies without leaving a will, probate may include the designation of his heirs under laws of intestacy.

All estate assets must be collected during probate. All assets not subject to probate, such as living trust assets, are exempted. Estate debts are paid out to creditors and the remainder is divided among the heirs. The distribution is made in accordance either with the last will and testament of the decedent or, if no will is available, according to Texas intestacy law. Unlike many states, Texas probate law offers simplified estate administration procedures for small, debt-free estates.

At the Law Office of Whitney L. Thompson, probate attorney Whitney L. Thompson and our team of experienced legal professionals are skilled in handling probate processes and have helped many families navigate the process smoothly. We are here to ensure that the wishes of the decedent are thoroughly followed after their death. Schedule a consultation with us today to learn more about probate

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Types of Probate in Houston, Texas

There are two kinds of probate administration in Texas. The level of supervision by the court is what generally distinguishes each type. Each type has its advantages and drawbacks.

In Texas, the three kinds of probate are:

Dependent administration is a form of probate that requires a high degree of supervision from the court. This means that the administrator must obtain permission from the court to engage in almost all transactions, including paying estate debts and selling property. 

Dependent administration is a good option for beneficiaries or heirs who are in conflict. A high level of court involvement allows the judge to oversee all parties and provide protection for administrators. Creditors must follow strict guidelines when making claims. The estate is not liable for any debt if a creditor does not present their claim in a specified time frame or makes an incorrect claim.

Additionally, an administrator will need to provide a bond that is proportional to the estate’s size. This bond protects creditors and beneficiaries of the estate. The administrator’s bond expires once a dependent administration has been closed. The court costs are usually higher for dependent administration than any other type of administration due to repeated applications to the courts.

Independent administration is the most popular type of probate administration. This process costs less than dependent administration. The administrator doesn’t need to appear in court as often and does not usually require a bond. A decedent can request this type of administration in the will, or it may be granted by all beneficiaries.

Here are some things you should consider in independent administration:

  • This probate type can often be done more quickly than a dependent administration.
  • The personal representative does not require the court to approve all actions. This saves the estate money on court fees.
  • Texas is the only state that uses the Muniment of Title method for probating. To distribute property, there is no administrator or executor. The court orders the transfer of title to intended beneficiaries only after the court has certified that the will was validly made by the deceased. The court order is essentially an instrument to transfer title to the property.

Muniment of title is best when a real estate property is the sole asset. It is possible that dependent administration or an independent administration will need to be necessary if there are brokerage accounts or bank accounts.

At the Law Office of Whitney L. Thompson, PLLC, lawyer Whitney L. Thompson and her team of legal professionals have strived to help clients go through the probate process as smoothly as possible.

Call us today at  (281) 214-0173 to schedule a consultation.

The knowledge and care found here are top tier. Attorney Thompson is extremely smart and very kind. She will work tirelessly to get you out of any situation that you may find yourself in. I definitely recommend her services to any and all who are in need of a family attorney. You won’t regret it!

The Process of Probating an Estate

To probate an estate, the first thing to do is determine if there’s a Will. If there is none, Texas’ intestacy laws will apply to the process.

The next step after determining whether a Will is in place is to file it with the probate court of the county where the decedent lived. For any possible contests, the probate court will post a notice about the Will filing. The probate court will then determine if the Will is valid after the required time has expired. 

The probate court may issue letters testamentary if the Will is found valid. If an executor has been named, the court will order independent administration of the estate by the executor. An independent administration gives the executor broad power to manage the estate and does not require approval from the court for any transaction.

The probate court will name an administrator to the estate of the deceased if the Will is not available or the Will has been lost. After taking inventory of all estate assets and liabilities, the administrator will report back to the probate judge about the results.

The court will then attempt to decide the heirship of an estate in accordance with Texas laws. Once the estate’s heirs have been determined, taxes and debts of the estate must be paid before the property can be distributed to its heirs. After that, the administrator prepares an accounting final for probate court.

Call The Law Office of Whitney L. Thompson in Houston if your family member has recently passed away and you need help with the legal proceedings to settle their estate. Speaking to a probate attorney can help you navigate the process smoothly.

To schedule a consultation, call us today at (281) 214-0173.

Probate Litigation and Mediation

There may be disagreements about a trust or will that is being administered by probate. One party might claim that they have a later will, while multiple parties could question the executor’s actions.

Probate litigation is used to contest the validity of wills on grounds of invalidity, incapacity, undue influence, defective execution, forgery, and others. Oftentimes, probate litigation also includes trust litigation which is used to defend or challenge the trust’s construction or trustee actions. When there are any ambiguities in a will, probate litigation can also be used to create will construction proceedings on behalf of the fiduciaries or beneficiaries in order to clarify these ambiguities.

Additionally, probate litigation can also involve fiduciary litigation. Fiduciary litigation is a legal challenge to the executor or trustee’s actions in the management of the financial assets of an estate or trust. Other things that are usually involved in probate litigation include an accounting proceeding, fiduciary removal, spousal rights proceedings, kinship proceedings, and claims proceedings.

For claims to be brought, there are certain time limitations and processes. Houston’s probate court is focused on the execution of the wishes of the deceased and following the Texas probate laws.

The Law Office of Whitney L. Thompson can help you protect your rights if your probate administration does not go according to plan. We can do both defense and plaintiff work in probate administration.

Call us today at (281) 214-0173 to schedule a consultation.

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Probate Mediation

Family members can use mediation to avoid probate court. Many estates can be settled through mediation, but some cases will end up in Texas probate courts.

Mediation by an impartial third party can help families settle probate issues outside the court system. Mediation is often able to resolve probate disputes that are not communicated well. The mediation process allows family members and heirs to have a productive conversation if done properly. The probate case is confidentiality protected by mediation. Mediation is not a trial that involves a full presentation to the public, but a private partnership.

The mediation process in Texas often occurs in three stages: general session, caucus, and closure. 

In the general session, the mediator meets with each party and their counsel. The mediator facilitates the session and explains the ground rules. Each attorney will discuss his/her client’s view of the case and the legal and factual issues if all the parties are willing to take part in the general session. Although clients are encouraged to speak, they are not obligated to do so. The mediator clarifies the issues and identifies potential areas for agreement. The mediator also inquires about settlements that have been reached in the past.

After the general sessions, parties can separate and go into private conference rooms to have their own discussions, called caucuses. The contents of these caucuses will be kept secret. All discussions with the mediator in a caucus are confidential unless the parties agree otherwise. The private conference allows counsel to talk about issues they don’t want to face in front of their opposing counsel.

After the caucus, the mediator, the counsel, and the party will have an open discussion about risks and settlement options. The mediator will act as an intermediary between the parties during the caucus process and relay settlement offers back and forth.

After a consensus has been reached, the mediator brings both parties together. Each party will sign an agreement. The mediator will assist them in preserving the important aspects of the said agreement.

Throughout the mediation process, all information regarding the case will be kept confidential and private. It is against the law that the mediator, or any other person involved in mediation talks with the court. The mediator can only inform the judge whether the case is settled.

Probate attorney Whitney L. Thompson and our team of legal professionals at the Law Office of Whitney L. Thompson have the knowledge and experience to help you navigate the probate process smoothly. Schedule an appointment with us today to discuss what your best option may be.

Contact (281) 214-0173.

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The Importance of an Attorney in Probate

Can you do probate proceedings without an attorney? The short answer is yes. Although you may be able to manage probate by yourself, an estate may be large or complicated enough to need one. Without a probate attorney, the probate process in Houston can seem overwhelming. Most courts will only allow attorneys to submit probate applications. If there are many beneficiaries, disputes can arise and the process may become more complex. 

In Houston, a probate attorney may be able to help you: 

  • Properly file the probate application
  • Participate in the hearing to receive will validation
  • Prepare an inventory and catalog assets
  • Notify all beneficiaries
  • Notify creditors
  • Resolve all disputes
  • Distribute assets

There are many factors that will affect whether or not you should hire a probate attorney such as: 

  • State Laws
  • The type of estate plan used
  • The complication of the assets or beneficiary
  • The presence or absence of a trust or will
  • The size of the estate
  • Conflicting relationships

These considerations all will influence your decision about whether you require experienced and trusted assistance. Whitney L. Thompson is a probate attorney who can assist you in making the entire probate process smooth and easy. As an experienced probate lawyer, she and her team of legal professionals will safeguard your rights and make sure that deadlines are adhered to. 

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Seek the Legal Advice of a Skilled Probate Attorney in Houston

Although it is not possible to avoid probate altogether, there are steps you can take to minimize the assets subject to probate. The Law Office of Whitney L. Thompson can assist you in discussing your probate matters and evaluating your goals and needs. Our goal is to ensure that your loved ones have the right to inherit your estate and assets without having to go through lengthy public probate. You can feel confident that your affairs will be in order, which gives you peace of mind.

This is an important topic, and we will strive to help you make it easier.

To schedule a consultation with an experienced probate attorney, call (281) 214-0173 or complete our secure contact form.

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