Heard & Smith, L.L.P's estate planning attorneys have helped many clients make critical decisions regarding their future, or the future of a loved one. Our planning strategies have helped many families move smoothly through the probate process. While the death of a loved one is always difficult, the probate process need not be. With proper planning, you can prepare for the possibility of disability and ensure that upon your death, your assets will pass according to your wishes. Heard & Smith, L.L.P. has the credentials, the experience and the expertise to counsel you in the important matters of trust and estate planning, probate (with or without a will), guardianships and other legal concerns.
What is probate? Probate is the process of transferring the property and belongings of a person who has died to their heirs. Despite what you may have heard, probate does not need to be lengthy, expensive or complicated. In fact, probate is not even mandatory in Texas. However, the probate system is intended to help heirs and beneficiaries clear title to assets as easily as possible, and to prevent false claims against the decedent's estate. Many banks and other institutions will not release funds and assets to the heirs of the decedent account owner without a probate order which protects them from liability.
Texas was one of the leaders in simplifying the probate process and offers a wide range of choices for settling decedent's estates. Nearly eighty percent of Texas probate cases are handled through Independent Administration which requires only one court hearing and the filing of an inventory of assets. Probate through independent administration can usually be completed in less than three months if the Will is properly drafted and explicitly specifies independent administration. On the other hand, when a person dies without a will, one of the most burdensome forms of probate known as court supervised dependent administration may be required. In this process, the administrator of the estate can take little action without the express approval of the court.
As experienced Texas probate attorneys, we are prepared to handle inheritance issues from ranging from routine probate to complicated litigation. There are six different ways to probate a will and many more methods when a person dies without a will. We always look for the simplest and most economical method to meet your family's needs. Occasionally, wills are contested. We are experienced in handling will contests in the trial courts and in the appellate courts.
We have also seen poorly drafted Wills that lack important components. This situation most frequently occurs with handwritten Wills, or Wills derived from computer software programs. There may be no provisions for taxes, or state-specific laws are overlooked, or the estate situation is too complex for the software program. Since Texas' laws come to us from Spain and Mexico, many of the computer programs written for most other states simply do not meet the requirements of Texas law. Heard and Smith's comprehensive experience enables us to resolve these difficult situations.
The probate lawyers of the Heard & Smith have helped many clients with probate and estate administration by filing the necessary pleadings, preparing the documents required under Texas laws and handling any tax-related issues. We also work with beneficiaries to help them understand and comply with appropriate laws. Our experience enables us to effectively and sensitively counsel the decedent's survivors and beneficiaries during their period of adjustment.
An experienced estate planning and probate attorney can reduce any complications associated with the probate process. Many clients have invested the time to educate themselves on estate planning, risk management and wealth preservation, and merely need a consultation or answers to their questions. Others have more complex situations and need help in more sophisticated estate matters. Whatever your situation, Heard & Smith can confidently guide you through the transition process and help you address the future. Please contact our attorneys today at (210)904-3200 or via our online form to discuss your situation.