At Munsch Hardt, we have been providing exceptional legal services to individuals and businesses throughout Texas in probate, commercial and fiduciary litigation, bankruptcy and bankruptcy matters for many years. Our clients often have questions concerning their cases. One of the questions we get asked a lot is, what happens in a Texas probate court hearing?
It Starts by Filing an Application for Probate with the County Probate Court
Probate is the process by which a court legally recognizes a person’s death and authorizes the administration of his or her estate. It begins by going to the probate court serving the county in which the decedent lived and filing a petition for the court to admit a will to probate and appoint an executor, or, if there is no will, appoint an estate administrator.
After the probate application is filed there will be a two week waiting period before the hearing is scheduled. During this time the County Clerk will post what is called a Notice of Probate Administration, announcing that a probate application has been filed to any persons who may wish to contest the will or administration of the estate. If no challenges are received, a hearing is scheduled.
What to Expect at a Texas County Probate Court Hearing
The proceedings begin just like in any other court – you are sworn in and will be giving testimony, under oath, to the court. According to Texas law, an applicant must prove to the court’s satisfaction that:
- The testator is dead.
- Four years have not elapsed since the date of the testator’s death and before the application.
- The court has jurisdiction and venue over the estate.
- Citation has been served and returned in the manner and for the period required by this title.
- The person for whom letters testamentary or of administration are sought is entitled by law to the letters and is not disqualified.
If the County Probate Judge accepts your testimony and evidence, the court will order that the will be admitted to probate.
Sign the Oath
After the ruling, you will be expected to sign several documents, including the “Oath,” in which you promise to fulfill the obligations required by law of the executor or administrator of an estate. (These are documents that can be prepared by your attorney before the hearing but must be signed in open court). After you have signed this oath, the judge will issue Letters Testamentary, which state that you are the legal executor of the estate and have the authority to act as such.
After you have been named administrator or executor, the judge will require you to perform certain tasks:
- You will have 90 days to file an inventory, appraisement and list of claims pertaining to the estate.
- You will also have to gather the assets of the estate and then distribute according to the terms of the will.
- You will execute the directions of the testator as contained in the will.