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2703 Center Street, Deer Park, Texas 77536

Deer Park Estate Administration Attorney

Texas probate lawyer helps clients prevent disputes over asset distribution

Shifting the assets of someone who is recently deceased to the rightful beneficiaries is a profound legal responsibility. You can rely on one of the Deer Park estate administration attorneys at The Law Office of Shelly A. Merchant to provide skillful counsel during this legal process. Our lawyers have a thorough understanding of Texas probate laws and are also experienced with complex cases, such as where no will exists or where there is a dispute involving potential heirs.

The role of an estate administrator in Texas

After someone dies, the court appoints a personal representative to manage their estate. If the decedent left a will, this usually is the person who was named as executor in that document. Otherwise, the court names someone who was close to the decedent and is capable of handling the tasks required to settle the estate. The personal representative is legally responsible for carrying out the instructions left in the will or transferring property in accordance with the state’s intestacy laws. Failing to do so could have serious negative consequences, possibly including personal liability, so it is important to have a knowledgeable attorney to assist you.

Probate process in Texas

Probate is the legal process by which a decedent’s will is validated and enforced. The individual responsible for administering the estate must complete several steps before the legal proceeding can be closed, including:

  • Filing the will with the court
  • Notifying heirs
  • Transferring assets owned by the decedent into the estate
  • Maintaining accurate records of estate expenses and transactions
  • Communicating with the court and appearing at hearings when required
  • Paying off taxes and debts owned by the decedent
  • Distributing assets to the heirs named in the will or identified by the state’s intestacy law if no valid will exists
  • Closing the estate

At every stage of the probate process, you can rely on us for sound insight and effective representation aimed at helping you settle the estate as promptly and efficiently as possible.

Administering an estate with no will

When someone dies without a valid will, the property in their estate goes to family members based on a priority system set forth in Texas’s intestacy laws. For example, if a married, childless person passes away, all of their separate property goes to their surviving spouse. Should the decedent have children, one-third of the separate property is left to the surviving spouse and the other two-thirds is divided equally among the decedent’s living children. The probate court can designate someone close to the decedent to serve as administrator for the estate, or this can be done through unanimous consent of the heirs.

Federal estate taxes when the statutory exemption amount is exceeded

There is no state inheritance or estate tax in Texas. However, high net worth individuals are subject to federal taxation if the value of their estate exceeds the exemption amount set by the federal government. For 2024, estates valued at less than $13.61 million are not taxed. However, there are ways that someone can reduce their potential estate tax exposure through careful estate planning.

How will contests and disputes affect estate administration in Texas

Whether the probate process is straightforward or complicated depends in part on whether an actual or purported heir challenges the validity or administration of the will. If someone alleges that the will does not reflect the testator’s true intentions due to undue influence, mistake or lack of capacity, it might be necessary to obtain evidence that counters those claims. In some cases, a challenger contests that the document itself or a signature on it is not authentic. We provide strong counsel to estate executors and administrators in support of prompt, successful resolutions to will contests. Our firm also handles matters where an estate representative is accused of incompetence or malfeasance.

Contact an accomplished Texas estate administration lawyer

The Law Office of Shelly A. Merchant in Deer Park handles probate issues and other estate administration matters for Texas clients. Please call 281-817-0998 or contact us online to schedule a consultation about your legal needs.