When someone dies, a big step is to figure out what happens to the estate. If the person who passed has a will, the process is typically easier and less messy, although this is not always the case.
If the person did not have a will, there is more involvement of the court to determine where the estate goes to. Probate is the process of dividing and distributing assets.
According to the American Bar Association, probate is a legal process that identifies specifics of the will, including beneficiaries and asset distribution. If the deceased had not previously appointed an executor, the court appoints one. An executor is the person or party that is in charge of administrating the details of the will.
According to The State of Texas County of Bexar Probate Courts, an executor must retain counsel, unless the administrator is already an attorney, before beginning the probate process. The first step is to file an Application for Probate in court. Next, the court schedules a hearing, which occurs a minimum of two weeks after the application filing. During the waiting period, anyone who wants to contest the will may do so, and the contesting period expires two years after the admittance of the will to probate.
During the hearing, the judge recognizes the death, qualifies the executor and validates the will. The executor may then begin locating heirs, locating assets, distributing assets and other administrative tasks.
If there is no will, after the filing of the application, the court examines evidence that identifies the decedent’s heirs. After declaration of heirs, the judge determines how to divide the estate among them.