Probate is the legal process that takes place after a person dies and property has to be distributed to beneficiaries. This process occurs even if the person who died left a legally valid will. The court must probate the will to ensure that it meets all the requirements of the Texas Estates Code. Things get even more complicated if the probate is contested, which means someone disagrees with the will and wants more than what he or she receives under the terms of the will. In a standard probate, however, a will is confirmed as being valid, debts are paid, and property is distributed according to the wishes of the person who died.
Probate As Muniment of Title
The term ‘muniment of title’ means documented evidence of the ownership of property. As it relates to probate, an estate-planning attorney can file a muniment of title petition that asks the court to admit the will into probate without the need to administer the estate. Essentially, you are asking a judge to speed up the probate process by confirming that the will is valid and distributing the assets without going through the long process of filing public notices and sending notices to creditors.
You can only file a muniment of title if there are no debts owed by the estate of the person who died other than those secured by real property. If the judge accepts the petition for muniment of title, the judge will issue an order that transfers the property according to the terms of the will. Muniment of title is a great choice for probate if the property left in a will is real estate instead of stocks, bonds or bank accounts. Probate as muniment of title is only recognized in the State of Texas. Therefore, it should be used only when the property at issue and any liens on that property are situated in the State of Texas.
Small Estate Affidavit
A small estate affidavit is a request that a person makes after a spouse or another family member passes away without leaving a will. In most cases, the value of the estate cannot exceed $50,000. There are certain exceptions.
The affidavit acts as a kind of cost-effective, fast-track way to settle the deceased person’s estate.
After you have valued the estate, your lawyer will help you obtain an official copy of the death certificate, proof that the deceased person owned the property in question, proof of your identity, and an inventory of all property the person owned.
Determination of Heirship
Determination of Heirship is a petition by any legal heir of an estate of a person who died without leaving a will. It is a legal determination of who is legally entitled to receive an inheritance from the property that the deceased person left.
In many states, there is an established order of heirship that begins with a spouse and continues through children, and then other family members. Once the application is made, the court will confirm the identity of the person or people who are claiming heirship to determine the validity of the claim.
Contesting a Will
After a person dies, beneficiaries have the right to contest the will on several grounds, including:
- The creation of the will violated state law
- The person writing the will was not of sound mind
- The person writing the will was influenced by a third party
- The will was created by fraudulent means
You will need an experienced estate lawyer to contest a will, and the will must be contested in a timely manner.
Probate can be a difficult and emotional process. Contact Elissa I. Henry Law Firm, PLLC today to schedule a free consultation.