If someone you cared about has died, you may have been named their estate administrator. You don’t have to be a lawyer to be an estate administrator. In fact, you can hire an attorney to help you with the probate process.
Before you can probate an estate in Texas, you need to be appointed by a court. Once you are appointed, you file an oath of office and, in some cases, a bond. At this point you are considered “qualified” to be the estate administrator and you can proceed by requesting letters of administration.
There are people that won’t be appointed estate administrators. Those include anyone who is considered incapacitated by a court, anyone with a felony conviction and anyone the court finds unsuitable. You must also be a resident of Texas or an appointed Texas agent of a corporation.
What does estate administration entail?
Basically, what you’re trying to accomplish is to pay off any debts of the estate and pass the remaining assets on to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the will, if there is one. (If there is not, you will need to ask the court to make findings of heirship and distribute the assets to the heirs.)
The main tasks of Texas estate administration include:
- Taking possession of all property owned by the estate
- Setting aside any property that is exempt from creditors
- Paying estate debts
- Paying the decedent’s final taxes and any estate taxes
- Determine who gets what, according to the will or court findings of heirship
- Distribute the assets to the heirs or beneficiaries
- In some cases, oversee a family allowance to maintain the decedent’s spouse and children for year
Will I have to go to court?
Once you have been appointed administrator, received your letters of administration and submitted an inventory of the assets to the court, you will typically handle the estate through what is called “independent administration,” meaning outside of any formal court process. However, the court may require all the heirs at law (presumed beneficiaries) to agree to an independent administration.
You will be acting as a fiduciary
An estate administrator is a fiduciary, which is a legal word for someone who acts in the interest of others. You represent the interests of the estate’s creditors and beneficiaries. You are legally responsible for acting in their interests, not only your own. This can require some legal knowledge and judgment, so you may want to hire an attorney to help.
Being named an estate administrator can be a tough, emotional job. There are many steps in Texas probate, and there are issues to be aware of. Many people find that they are more effective and cost-efficient when they bring in legal help.