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.
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
- 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
- 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.
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.