Houston Probate Attorney - Probate Lawyer

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 lawyer by your side can make it less stressful.

Experienced Houston probate attorney Whitney L. Thompson understands what you’re going through. As a skilled Houston 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 with minimal hassle. You can trust us to fight against errant 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.

Contact Us
We are here to help
Contact Us

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, attorney for probate Whitney L. Thompson and our team of experienced legal professionals are skilled in handling probate processes and have helped many families navigate the probate 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.

Attorney Whitney Thompson is a great attorney. I refer people to her law firm because I know she has the experience and professionalism necessary to deliver competent legal services. Do not hesitate to call this attorney should you need honest representation.

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 of 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. A separate 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 lawyer 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 the 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.

Probate Attorney Vs Estate Attorney

When dealing with legal matters after a loved one’s passing, it’s important to distinguish between a probate attorney and an estate attorney, as each serves specific functions in estate planning and administration.

Probate Attorney: A probate attorney focuses on the legal proceedings that occur after someone dies. This includes validating the deceased’s will, settling debts, and distributing assets according to the will or state law in the absence of a will. Their main role is to assist the executor of a will or the administrator of an estate through the probate process. They help with filing necessary court documents, aiding in the inventory of assets, addressing creditor claims and tax issues, and facilitating the legal transfer of assets to beneficiaries.

Estate Attorney: Conversely, an estate attorney concentrates on planning the management of an individual’s assets before death. This involves creating legal documents such as wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and healthcare directives. Their objective is to clearly outline an individual’s wishes, ensure legal protection, and promote efficient execution of these wishes upon death. They aim to reduce taxes, bypass probate where possible, and guarantee smooth succession and distribution of the estate as intended by the individual.

In essence, while a probate attorney navigates the legal processes after a person’s death, an estate attorney arranges the necessary preparations before death. Both are crucial in making sure that an individual’s estate is managed according to their intentions and with minimal legal hurdles.

Aspect Probate Attorney Estate Attorney
Focus Handles legal matters after death. Focuses on asset planning before death.
Responsibilities Validates will, settles debts, distributes assets. Creates legal documents, outlines wishes, ensures legal protection, promotes efficient execution, reduces taxes, bypasses probate, ensures smooth succession and distribution.
Objective Assists in probate and asset distribution post-death. Ensures smooth asset management and distribution as per individual's wishes, minimizing taxes and probate involvement.
Main Role Guides through probate, files documents, resolves issues. Drafts legal instruments, clarifies wishes, protects legally, optimizes execution, minimizes probate and tax implications.
I'd like to tell everyone how much I appreciate the help you've provided especially working with me. I greatly appreciate the child custody lawyer representing me. Great people to have in a time of need. Thanks for everything. God bless

Avoiding Probate

Although Texas is continuing to improve and create probate alternatives and procedures, planning to avoid probate could be a desirable goal for an estate plan. It is possible to avoid probate by learning about the various options and seeking qualified legal advice.

Common probate avoidance tools include:

When properly drafted and funded these trusts can provide privacy and a sense of security. The trust assets are distributed in accordance with the terms of the trust and there is no need to file probate paperwork or disclose the estate’s nature.

If a beneficiary is properly identified, assets can be transferred to the beneficiaries or trusts by providing the appropriate documentation to financial institutions. These probate alternatives can be improved by reviewing the designations with qualified professionals. 

The aforementioned tools are just some of the options available for settling an estate in Houston. It is still important to speak with an experienced attorney for probate or an estate planning attorney when dealing with matters involving your estate. A skilled lawyer for probate can provide the legal support you need. Your lawyer may be able to answer any questions you may have regarding the probate process or how you can avoid the process altogether.

If you are looking for an experienced attorney in Houston, Texas, contact the Law Office of Whitney L. Thompson today.

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. 

The mediator meets with each party and their counsel in the general session. 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.

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.

She represented me in a case concerning guardianship over my grandson. It was a very time sensitive matter and we won the case. I am very grateful for her, because my grandson has stability and is growing up loved beyond measure. Attorney Whitney Thompson is very passionate and she truly cares for the people.
Contact Us

Learn More

Texas probate law has strict rules regarding the statute of limitations for probating a will. In Houston, Texas the statute of limitations for wills is four years. The probate law states that an executor must file a probation application within four years starting from the date of death of the testator. If the executor is not able to file within the specified period of time, the laws of intestacy will be applied. In such a case, it would be as if the testator died without a will. The state would then decide how the assets should go to each heir.

It is important to speak to experienced probate attorneys when it comes to probating a will. By having a skilled attorney to offer you the legal representation you need, you may be able to deal with the administration of your estate smoothly. 

Contact our law firm today at (281) 214-0173 to schedule a consultation with Houston estate planning attorney Whitney L. Thompson. 

A will is a document that outlines the wishes of a person with regard to the distribution of their assets. The will is sent to the Texas probate judge in the county where the person resided upon their death. In Houston, probate occurs when the court recognizes the death of someone and authorizes the distribution of their property, as provided in the will or the intestate law if there is no will.

Most of the time, Texas probate is straightforward as long as you follow the law. However, there may be complications if the rules are not followed. For example, waiting too long to apply a will for probate. If the statute of limitations has passed without the will being probated, the state may refuse to acknowledge that the will exists and will divide the estate according to the intestate succession law.

Other consequences of not probating a will include:

  • Complicated estate administration and proceedings
  • Possible probate disputes
  • Additional expenses
  • Not being able to honor the deceased’s wishes

It is important to understand these consequences to ensure that your wishes are honored after you pass away. To learn more about the probate process in Houston, contact the Law Office of Whitney L. Thompson today. 

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 an attorney for estate planning, 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, your probate lawyer 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 lawyer 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 will influence your decision about whether you require experienced and trusted assistance. Whitney L. Thompson is an attorney for probate 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. 

Contact Whitney L. Thompson

Seek the Legal Advice of a Skilled Estate Planning and Probate Lawyer 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 attorney for probate, call (281) 214-0173 or complete our secure contact form.

a professional photo of Whitney L. Thompson, estate lawyer in Houston
Request a Consultation

Table of Contents