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Notice must be given to all heirs and beneficiaries, as required by the court. An inventory of the estate's assets must be filed with the court listing the estate's assets within 90 days of the executor's appointment. Once all of the creditors and taxes have been paid, a Petition to close the probate must be filed with the court. The Court will issue an Order, distributing the estate's property to the beneficiaries. The executor is entitled to a fees for their services of five percent of the estate, but since such fees are subject to income tax which inheritances aren't, unless Texas has an inheritance tax , many executors forgo the fees.

Click here for a link to Texas's probate courts.

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Liza is a graduate of Stanford Law School, a former magazine editor, and the mother of two children neither of whom show any desire to become attorneys. Here is an overview of how this site works and what articles you'll find most useful. It can be confusing to sort out the process, the taxes, and the issues that arise after someone's death. This site will help. Small estates don't have to go through probate to be distributed. Find out what Texas's limit is for this small estates procedure. In order to settle an estate or a trust, you'll need to get a tax identification number for it.

Find out how to do it. A will is a legal document in which a person, the testator , states his or her wishes for the distribution of property at death. A will also names an executor , also called a personal representative , who is the person who will settle the estate, and, if a probate is necessary, be appointed as the legal representative of the estate until it is distributed to the will's beneficiaries.

Some states allow a person to handwrite a will this is called a holographic will , but it's better to type one out. That way, it's easier to see if someone else has tried to change the will. If you want to find the will of soemone who has died, where should you look? There's no official place for people to store their wills, and there's no state registry to store your will before you die.

Ideally, you want to find the original, signed will, not a copy. If all you can find is a copy, you can submit that to the probate court and explain to the court that you couldn't locate the original.

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If no one else comes forward with an original will for that person, and no other evidence can be found that another will was created, the court may accept a copy of a will. If, after a thorough search, no one can find a will at all, you'll have to conclude that there is no will. In that case, the person's estate will be subject to the state's rules about how inherits when there is no will. When a person dies and leaves behind a will, whoever has possession of the will is supposed to submit it to the probate court in the county where that person died.


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This is sometimes called "lodging" the will. Once lodged, the will becomes a public record, to be read by anyone who's interested in what it says. Here's a link to your state's probate courts. Even though the law requires that a will be submitted to the local probate court, there are really no actual penalties for not doing so, especially if the estate is too small for probate to be required. If an estate does have to go through probate, though, filing the will is the first step in getting that process started.

It's not like the movies. Hardly any families have a meeting with a lawyer to read the will aloud.

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Instead, reading a will is like reading any legal document--take it slow, look up words that you do not know, and focus on what the document actually says, as opposed to what you wish it would say. When you are reading a will, here's what you need to find out:. If the value of a person's estate is above a certain limit, called a "small estates limit," their estate must go through a probate proceeding before assets can be distributed to the people who inherit the assets.

This is true whether or not there is a will. Probate is a process that takes place in court. The purpose of probate is to make sure that a deceased person's wishes are respected and that their property is distibuted as directed by their will. The person named in the will as the executor, or personal representative, is appointed by the court.

After that, the executor is in charge of protecting the estate's assets, identifying and valuing them, paying the debts and expenses of the deceased person, and, in the end, distributing the assets as directed by the will. Instead, the executor or personal representative can file some simple paperwork and then pay the last bills and expenses, identify the property, and distribute it to the beneficiaires.

Each state's process is a little different. When a person dies without a will, or if the will cannot be found, then the estate will be distributed to their heirs, as determined by state law. These laws are called intestacy statutes. For example, in most states, if a person dies and leaves behind no spouse but two living children, those children would inherit the estate, in equal shares. The Grantor, beneficiary, and Trustee of a typical living trust are all the same people because the primary purpose of a living trust is to manage a person's assets for them during their lifetime, and allow them to pass that property to their surviving spouse, or children, without having to go through a court-supervised process, called probate.

During the Grantor's lifetime, the assets held in the living trust, often their house, their investment accounts and their larger bank accounts, can be used for that person's benefit in exactly the same way that the person was able to use those assets before they were placed in the trust. But, at their death, the trust agreement will dictate what happens next, distributing the trust's property as directed by the document.

Because the assets that have been transferred into the trust are legally owned by the trust and not by the person who contributed those assets , the Grantor's estate will not have to go through probate because it will fall under a state's small estates limit , if their biggest assets are held in the trust and only a few, small assets are held in their individual names. Just having a living trust, though, isn't going to prevent a probate if the Grantor forgot to actually put their biggest assets house, brokerage accounts, and so on into the trust.

It's entirely possible for someone to create a trust, ignore it for the next thirty years, and die with all of the major assets held in their own names, and not in the name of the trust. In that case, a probate will be required before any of that person's assets can be distributed to their beneficiaries.

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For example, if a person whose home, brokerage account, and savings account had been transferred into their living trust, dies, only those assets that they held in their own, individual name would count towards their state's small estates limit for probate. However, if that same person never transferred their home, their brokerage account or that savings account into the trust, all of those assets would have to go through probate before they could be transferred to the trust's beneficiaries.

After someone dies, the family needs to locate that person's estate planning documents. Much to many peoples' surprise, there's no official state registry for this kind of thing where people send in their important documents before they die. Instead, people keep their Wills and trusts in safe places -- sometimes in a safe deposit box at the bank, sometimes in a fireproof safe or cabinet at home, and sometimes just in a special box or drawer at home.

If you are not certain where such documents are located, you just have to keep looking until you find them. If you can't find them, you may finally conclude that they just don't exist. If that's the case, then the person will have died intestate , which means that state law determines who inherits their property. If you're not certain whether or not such documents exist, then you've got more of a detective project on your hands. There's no external thing you can find that will tell you for certain that a Will exists--you either find one or you don't.

But in the case of a living trust, your clue to the existence of a trust will be account statements or property deeds that show the ownership of the account to be something like this, "Nila Smatherton, as Trustee of the Nila Smatherton Trust. If you do find the trust document, your next step is to read it. If you ultimately cannot find the trust document, you'll need to work with a local estate planning attorney to transfer the assets via a court order. To settle an estate that's held in a living trust, there are a series of steps that the Trustee will need to take. The beneficiaries and heirs will need to be notified of the death of the Grantor; the trust's assets will need to be identified and valued, the decedent's debts and expenses will have to be paid, the trust will need a tax identification number, a trust tax return may need to be filed, and, in the end, the trust's assets will need to be distributed to the beneficiaires.

As "estate," simply put is the property that a person leaves behind at death. When a person dies, their real property, their bank accounts, their brokerage accounts, their retirement accounts, and their tangible personal property, such as their furniture, clothes, jewelry, and automobiles, are in their estate. It is the Executor's job to collect, preserve, and ultimately distribute the assets that are in someone's estate.


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If an estate goes through probate, the Executor cannot distribute those assets to anyone without a court order, which is how a probate proceeding ends: the court issues an order that distribute's the estate's assets to the beneficiaries or heirs of the decedent. But not all estates have to go through probate. If an estate is small enough, no probate is required, and an estate can be settled without court supervision. An estate that's small enough to be distributed without court supervision is called a "small estate.

If a person's estate falls below a certain threshold, called a "small estates limit," then that estate does not have to go through probate before the assets can be distributed. Instead, after the executor identifies and collects a decedent's property, pays all the decedent's debts and taxes, the estate can be distributed to the beneficiaries or heirs without a court order. The small estates limit, and which assets count towards it, vary by state. Click here to find out what the small estate's limit is for Texas.

If a person dies and leaves behind a Will that states who will inherit their property, then whether or not their estate must go through probate depends upon their state's small estate limit: if the estate falls below the limit, no probate is required. The Executor can distribute the property without getting a court order first. Each state's procedures for settling a small estate varies. Click here to find out how small estates are distributed in Texas. If a person dies and leaves behind a living trust that states who will inherit their property, then whether or not their estate must go through probate depends upon whether or not they funded that trust properly.


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Assets held in a living trust do not count towards the small estate limit, only assets that are held in an individual's name. If a person dies without a Will or a living trust , who inherits the estate depends upon state law. Each state has a set of laws, called intestacy statutes, that state who inherits when there is no Will. If a person's estate falls below that state's small estates limit, then the estate won't need to go through probate.

But if the estate exceeds the threshold, then it will have to go through probate.