After a loved one dies, you have many important matters to resolve. These may be welcome distractions, but after a while, you may simply want to step away from your time of grief and move forward with your life. However, you are not entirely free to do this until probate is over.
The process of probate is the legal closing of your loved one's estate. This necessary legal procedure verifies your loved one's ownership of the assets and the identity of the heirs. It is also time for your loved one's creditors to receive payment for any debt the estate owes. Because there are typically many entities involved, probate can take a considerable amount of time.
It is natural to wonder how much of your time you will spend waiting for probate to end. You may also feel stuck until you can clean out your loved one's belongings or perhaps sell the house or car. However, probate must follow its course, and even if your loved one had a simple estate and few heirs, the process may take up to nine months to complete. Some factors can quickly complicate probate, and this can add weeks or months to the waiting, for example:
- Your loved one did not leave a will, which means the Texas probate court will be involved in every step of the process.
- Your loved one named an executor who lives a great distance from the heirs and the estate attorney.
- Your loved one named numerous beneficiaries, which necessitates locating and notifying each of them as well as coordinating and signing legal documents.
- Naming numerous beneficiaries also increases the possibility of disputes and disagreements among the heirs, which often devolve into legal actions.
- You or another heir intends to contest the contents of the will, which will bring probate to a screeching halt.
- Your loved one's estate qualifies for federal estate taxes, which can add eight months or more to an already long probate.
If your loved one's estate includes complex assets, such as priceless art, heirlooms or intellectual property rights, probate will not continue until those assets have been assessed and valued. If your loved one prepared for this by placing the assets in trusts, you will not have to worry about this step in the process.
You may be the trusted person your loved one chose to represent his or her estate, and the prospect of managing these and other issues may be daunting. However, you do not have to carry the burden alone. Having an experienced attorney on your side can relieve you of the many complex tasks involved in probating your loved one's estate.