When it comes to probating a Last Will and Testament and/or an estate in Houston and/or West Harris County, Texas, or the surrounding areas, every person’s situation is different, and what you will need to do to resolve the estate of someone who has passed away in Houston or Harris County, TX will depend a lot on how the person lived their life and his/her unique financial circumstance.
Often a person’s life can be very complicated with regard to property and/or the debt they possess, and there are a lot of questions which need to be answered in the context of a formal probate proceeding in Houston and Harris County, Texas. For example, did the person make a Last Will and Testament, and, if so, was the person living in Houston and/or Harris County when it was drafted? Did the person own real property (i.e. house or land) in Houston, Harris County, or Texas, and, if so, is there a mortgage on that property? Did the person own an automobile that is registered in Harris County, Texas and is there a loan against it? Did the person have life insurance, retirement benefits and/or cash accounts? Did the person have children, and, if so, do they live in Houston and/or Harris County, Texas or, in another county or state? These are just a few of some of the bigger questions that must be considered, and there are many more which must be addressed in the probate process.
Understandably, it is difficult to consider these issues much less deal with them if the person who has passed away was a dear friend, close family member, and/or loved one. Nevertheless, these are issues that need to be addressed. Because of this it is important to find an experienced Houston Lawyer and Harris County Probate Attorney who can assist you and help to relieve you of this burden.
So, what should you do when a dear friend, close family member and/or loved one passes away?
1. Interview and Hire an Experienced Houston Attorney and/or Harris County probate lawyer.
When you hire an experienced Houston Probate Attorney and/or Harris County Estate Administration Lawyer it is important to hire an attorney who understands the stress of dealing with the loss of a loved one, and who will work closely with you to help relieve this burden. You need someone who is committed to providing the compassionate legal assistance needed to manage your probate case.
2. Funeral Arrangements
While your attorney is not typically involved in the handling of funeral arrangements, the attorney can assist you in determining whether the person who passed may have left burial instructions as part of a prior estate plan, or if there is a paid funeral contract in place. The attorney can also give you instructions on documenting funeral costs and expenses for reimbursement during the probate process, and assist you with instructions on how to acquire a death certificate and other documentation that may be necessary to complete the probate of the person’s estate.
3. Death Notices
It can be a good idea to notify the employers, creditors, and benefit providers of a person’s death because such notice may: (1) provide protection from penalties such as foreclosure and repossession which may otherwise occur if the presumption is that the person is still living; (2) trigger benefits to designated beneficiaries of certain plans and policies (i.e. life insurance, retirement plans, etc.); and, (3) trigger certain rights, privileges and protections that spring up as a result of the death. It may also be a good idea to notify the Social Security Administration and Veterans Affairs (if the person served in the military). Without providing these notices the employers, creditors and benefit providers will continue to operate under the assumption that the person is still living, which could complicate the probate process and increase the cost of handling same.
4. Search Out Important Documents
First and foremost, you should determine whether the person had a Last Will and Testament (hereinafter “Will”). If so, you should locate the “original” copy of same immediately. You should also make sure the “original” Last Will and Testament that you found is, in fact, the most current version of the person’s Will. When starting the probate process the Court prefers that the “original” Last Will and Testament be filed along with the Application for Probate. Too often beneficiaries and/or designated executors submit an old “original” Will to probate only to find out later on there is a more recent version. When this happens the probate process has to begin again with the new Will, which increases the cost of probate significantly. Some places to look for an “original” Will may include, but are not limited to: (1) the person’s home (i.e. safe, file cabinets, study, desk drawers etc…); (2) the banking institutions the person did business with to determine if the person had a safe deposit box; and, (3) any lawyer the person may have dealt with in having the Will drafted, as it is not uncommon for an attorney to keep an original Will for a client.
In conclusion, when you experience the death of a good friend, loved one and/or relative it is a good idea to immediately hire an experienced Houston Probate Attorney and Harris County Estate Administration Lawyer. Daniel E. McCarty, Jr. has over twenty (20) years of experience in handling probate and estate administration cases in Houston and Harris County, Texas. Mr. McCarty understands the stress of dealing with the loss of a loved one, and he works closely with his clients in Houston, Texas and Harris County, TX to help relieve them of this stress. Mr. McCarty is committed to providing you with the compassionate legal assistance you need to manage your probate case.
If you need assistance with a Houston or Harris County, Texas probate matter then contact the Law Office of Daniel E. McCarty, Jr. at (713) 464-7000 to schedule an appointment with an experienced probate attorney and estate administration lawyer to get the help you need.
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