Frequently Asked Questions

Asset Protection

Can an executor of an estate be removed from his/her duties?

If there are concerns regarding the way in which an independent executor is performing his/her duties there are actions that can be taken. These can include a review of probate proceedings to date and a demand for an accounting of the estate. One way to ensure that you are informed as to your rights is this situation is to retain an attorney of your choice to advise you regarding questionable phases of the probate process.

Can I challenge “changes” made to a Will by handwritten notes on the original?

Yes. Sometimes a testator (or someone) will attempt to make changes to a Will by writing directly on the original will. Examples of this may include crossing out names, changing percentages, modifying personal representative (such as executor or trustee) nominations. These changes are not valid. The proper way to change a Will is to execute a completely new Will that revokes the prior one or to execute a “codicil” which is an amendment to the Will that changes certain provisions. A Codicil must be executed with the same formalities as a Will.

Can I contest a will?

Typically, when the person who wrote the will was mentally incompetent, forced, deceived or duly influenced to execute the will the requirements for executing a valid Will are not met and the will can be contested.

Who can contest a will?

Any person interested in an estate may file a will contest once the will has been admitted for probate.

How can I ensure my loved one’s estate is administered correctly?

If you believe the estate administrator is improperly distributing your father’s assets, you could have grounds for probate litigation. State law mandates that an estate administrator act in good faith and probate the will as required by the will and Texas law.

How much does probate cost in Texas?

The probate process is a court proceeding so costs can vary widely depending on the complexity of the estate. We would be happy to discuss our fees during an initial consultation. For more information, please complete the contact us form.

What is a Muniment of Title?

It is a probate proceeding unique to Texas where the will is filed through a probate proceeding to transfer ownership of real estate in Texas to the beneficiaries in the will without a deed or a full probate.

Who is liable for the Decedent’s debts?

Creditors of the Decedent are entitled to recover their debts against the assets of the estate owned by the Decedent at the time of the Decedent’s death. If the Decedent’s assets are insufficient to pay all of the debts, any unpaid debts will be cancelled by the creditor.

Can a handwritten Will be probated?

Yes, in order for a handwritten will to be valid, it must be written completely in the handwriting of the Decedent and no portion of the Will can be typed or written in the handwriting of another person. It also must be signed by the person making the Will. While it does not require signature of witnesses it must express the Decedent’s true intent as to the disposition of his estate.

How is property divided if someone does not have a Will?

If someone dies intestate (without leaving a valid Will), their assets will be divided and distributed to his heirs as determined by Texas law. The Texas Probate Code has specific methods for determining the identity of the Decedent’s heirs and also the shares of the estate that each heir is entitled to share.

Where do I file an application to probate?

The application to probate a will is generally filed with County Clerk in the county where the Decedent resided at the time of death.

How long do I have to probate a will?

In Texas, an application for probate must generally be filed within four years of the date of death.

Who can file an application to probate a will?

The executor named in the will may file an application to probate a will. Additionally, an “interested person” of the estate (someone who is entitled to assets from the estate) may file an application to probate a will. An “interested person” is defined by the Texas Probate Code as \”heirs, devisees, spouses, creditors, or any others having a property right in, or claim against, the estate being administered; and anyone interested in the welfare of an incapacitated person, including a minor.”

What is probate?

A will is a binding document in the eyes of the court after the person dies and it is admitted to probate. Probate is the legal process in which a Court determines the validity of a deceased person’s last will and testament once the application to probate a will is filed.

How often can I change my will and when is it valid?

A will can be changed as often as a person wishes. The will is valid once it is signed and the state requirements for its creation are met.

Who Should Have a Revocable Living Trust?

Everyone who owns assets such as a house, land, financial assets, etc. and wants to avoid having the courts involved in their estate should consider a revocable living trust. The trust will allow you to consolidate all of your assets under a single plan. Additionally, anyone who owns real estate outside of Texas should consider having a revocable trust to avoid having to probate their estate in another state or jurisdiction. This process is called an ancillary probate. It can be an expensive and time consuming process, which would require additional legal representation in that state or jurisdiction.

What is a Revocable Living Trust?

A revocable living trust is a more complex estate planning tool which allows you to transfer your assets to your trust during your lifetime. You as trustee then retain use of the assets during your lifetime as beneficiary and upon your death the assets are distributed according to your wishes. With proper planning, trusts can be an effective tool to alleviate estate taxes and avoid probate.

What are Beneficiary Designations?

Beneficiary designations are designations that you make on accounts (such as life insurance death benefits, bank accounts, IRAs) regarding who you would like to inherit those assets or accounts at your death. You may be able to avoid probate on the transfer of these assets at your death depending on the designations made.

What does Intestate mean?

The act of dying without a legal will. If you die without a will, the state where you reside determines who will inherit your assets and when they will inherit them. More than 55% of Americans currently do not have a will.

What other estate planning document do I need?

Our comprehensive estate planning documents can include a living will (previously known as Directive to Physicians), statutory durable power of attorney, declaration of guardian, medical power of attorney, HIPPA disclosure, donor card, and burial statement.

A living will allows you to make decisions in advance regarding types of medical life support measures you prefer to have in the event you cannot express your choices yourself.

A durable power of attorney allows you to appoint someone you know to make financial and/or health decisions for you in the event you are not able to. The durable power of attorney is a very powerful document and our attorneys will guide you in making an informed decision on how best to use this document in your estate plan.

A declaration of guardian allows you to appoint someone to act on your behalf in the event of your incapacity. If you are incapacitated without these legal documents, then you and your family will be involved in a probate proceeding known as a guardianship and conservatorship. The court system and judge then determine who should make these decisions for you and those decisions are then supervised by the court.

Why do I need a will?

A will allows you to determine who will inherit your assets, when they will inherit them and provides for an orderly disposition of the assets after death. Wills do not allow a decedent to avoid probate. Wills are especially important if you have minor children and would like to designate who will be the new guardian of the children upon your death.

The Houser Law Firm is the Probate Team That Keeps Dallas Secure

Contact Houser Law Firm today to find out more about our services and areas of practice. Our team of highly qualified attorneys is ready to help you keep YOUR assets secure, YOUR legacy’s wealth protected and YOUR family’s future on the track to success.