The Law Office of Joe Brad Brock, serving the entire Corpus Christi-San Antonio-South Texas area, is here to help with all matters pertaining to probate and estate administration.
If you find yourself having to respond to the death of a family member or loved one, an essential step may be to prove the validity of the deceased’s will through the probate process. In essence, probate refers to the process of providing the notice of the decedent’s death and filing the decedent’s last signed will with the court in the county of the decedent’s domicile. Probate is one part of a process known as estate administration. An heir, if there is no will, or a representative named in the will of the deceased, must follow specific steps to complete the final affairs of the deceased.
The Estate Administration Process
There are several specific tasks involved in the estate administration process. Briefly, these steps will include collecting the deceased’s assets, sending notice to creditors, notifying insurance companies, filing papers with the probate court, filing tax returns, and distributing assets to heirs.
- Collecting Assets – the first step is to collect the deceased’s assets. This may include contacting banks and financial institutions for account information and balances held on the date of the decedent’s death. Often decedents own real estate which will require obtaining deeds from the county recorder’s office. Other assets carrying a certificate of title, such as automobiles, recreational vehicles and water craft, should be collected. Items of tangible property, such as jewelry and collectibles, should be secured and place in a safe place.
- Sending Notice to Creditors – notice to creditors may be published, by law, in a local newspaper with adequate circulation. Known creditors should be notified directly of the decedent’s death so they may submit final bills. After adequate review, legitimate bills should be paid and any claims that seem invalid may be challenged by the decedent’s representative.
- Notifying Insurance Companies – all insurance policies, including annuities and life insurance, should be identified and the issuing company should be notified of the decedent’s death. Most financial companies will issue a claim form in response to the death notice, requesting a copy of the death certificate. Claims instructions for each company must be followed precisely.
- Filing with the Probate Court – These forms may include a petition to probate the decedent’s will, if the decedent left a will, and appoint a representative to handle the decedent’s final affairs.
- Filing Tax Returns – the court-appointed representative is responsible for filing the decedent’s final income tax returns. If any taxes are owed, the representative is responsible for making such payments. In the event the value of the estate exceeds national death tax exemptions, it may be necessary to file death tax returns and pay any applicable death taxes owed.
- Distributing Assets – after paying claims, debts, and taxes, the representative carefully reads the will to determine who receives the remaining assets of the decedent. In the event the will is unclear, or the decedent died without a will, the representative may petition the probate judge for direction on how to proceed. After all distributions are delivered, the estate administration process is complete and the estate is usually closed by filing a document with the probate court.
The Help You Need
The estate administration process may become more complex should a party challenge the validity of the will. If you have any doubts about about how to proceed, contact The Law Office of Joe Brad Brock. We can help you through probate or any aspect of the estate administration process – just as we’ve helped so many others in the Corpus Christi-San Antonio-South Texas area.