Timely attention to wills avoids confusion

One of my duties as county judge is to conduct probate court for Milam County.

Last year I probated 81 wills and through the first quarter of 2012 have probated an additional 22.

In almost all cases wills call for the appointment of an independent executor or executrix to take care of the affairs of the deceased person’s estate.

Only in rare instances is a dependent administrator involved. Normally the executor will hire an attorney to assist with the process of preparing for the probating of the will and with the responsibilities that follow.

Once the will is probated, the independent administrator or executor must first of all notify all the heirs that the will has been probated within 60 days after the hearing and report back to the court within 90 days that such notice has been given. Then an inventory of all assets along with an appraised value of each, and a list of any claims against the estate must be prepared and provided to the court within 90 days.

Then the executor proceeds to pay off any claims owed by the estate, liquidate assets as necessary, close out accounts, and distribute the assets of the estate to the beneficiaries or heirs according to the terms of the will.

Once all the matters of the estate are settled, the executor may then choose to close the estate with the court. In the rare case of a dependent administration of an estate, all of these matters must be approved by me, the judge, before action may be taken (e.g. each sale or transfer of property, each payment of a bill, etc.).

If the will is contested by any of the potential heirs, I am required to transfer the case to our 20th District Court for resolution of the contested matter, unless a motion has been made by one of them for a statutory probate judge to hear the contested matter before I have transferred the case.

Then I must grant their motion and the case will be heard in the Travis County Probate Court.

Occasionally a will is probated as a muniment of title when all that is necessary is to transfer title to a piece of property to the named heir. No debts are involved and no inventor y list is required, etc. When the deceased left no will, then the Texas laws governing heirship apply, and in this case an heirship affidavit may be all that is required, and the cause may not come before the probate court at all unless for some reason an independent administrator needs to be appointed.

In most cases, the probating of a will is a relatively simple, straightforward matter.

However, it does need to be done correctly or property ownership, valuation for tax purposes, and other matters can become complicated to correct in future years.

So my advice is to take the time to handle these matters correctly and in a timely manner when they arise, and you (and your descendants) will be glad you did.

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2012-05-03 digital edition

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