If you are handling the estate of a Texas resident and the value of the estate was $75,000 or less, you do not have to go through the probate process. It does not matter if the decedent left a will or not. What is important is the value of their estate. If the value of the estate is under the small estate limit, the estate can be distributed without a court proceeding.
Probate usually works like this: After your death, the person you named in your will as executor—or, if you die without a will, the person appointed by a judge—files papers in the local probate court. The executor proves the validity of your will and presents the court with lists of your property, your debts, and who is to inherit what you've left. Then, relatives and creditors are officially notified of your death.
Section 2 of the Wills Act 1959 defines a will as a ‘declaration intended to have legal effect of the intentions of a testator with respect to his property or other matters which he desires to be carried into effect after his death and includes a testament, a codicil and an appointment by will or by writing in the nature of a will in exercise of a power and also a disposition by will or testament of the guardianship, custody and tuition of any child’.
Estate planning is an important part of financial planning, so it’s important to find the right attorney to prepare your will. Although most family attorneys can put together a basic will, you may want one who specializes in wills and estate planning, especially if you have a lot of assets or a dependent to take care of. You may need an attorney who has expertise in planning and executing trusts and a background in taxes. Ask how the attorney charges; some charge by the hour, others have a set fee for writing wills, and some charge a percentage of the total value of the estate. Make a list of several potential wills attorneys to interview. Make sure you make a strong personal connection with your attorney — you need to be comfortable telling him or her personal, confidential information about your life, and you need to feel that the attorney is committed to solving any problems that may arise while writing your will. Also find out how long the attorney has practiced estate law and whether he or she has handled wills similar to yours.
A will includes the appointment of an executor or executors. One of their duties is to apply to the Probate Division of the High Court for a grant of probate. An executor can apply to a local probate registry for a grant themselves but most people use a probate practitioner such as a solicitor. If an estate is small, some banks and building societies allow the deceased's immediate family to close accounts without a grant, but there usually must be less than about £15,000 in the account for this to be permitted.
Only a person having some interest that will be affected by the probate can contest it. Such persons include next of kin who will receive property if the will is set aside and intestacy results, purchasers of property from the heir or heirs, administrators or personal representatives under prior wills, and the state, if there is a possibility of Escheat, which means that the government will receive the property if no living heirs can be found. Creditors, however, generally are not entitled to contest the will of a debtor.
Informal probate proceedings generally do not require a hearing. The personal representative files the death certificate and will, along with a petition to admit the will under informal probate. The clerk of probate court reviews the submissions and recommends to the court that the will be probated. Once the court issues the order for informal probate, the personal representative files a series of forms that demonstrate that notice has been given to all interested parties about the probate, the decedent's creditors have been paid, and the estate's assets have been collected, appraised, and distributed to the designated heirs.
This is another strategy that can be used to limit death taxes. It involves an individual locking in the current value and thus, tax liability, of their property, while attributing the value of future growth of that capital property to another person. Any increase that occurs in the value of the assets in the future is transferred to the benefit of another person, such as a spouse, child, or grandchild.
In some cases, where the person named as executor cannot administer the probate, or wishes to have someone else do so, another person is named administrator. An executor or an administrator may receive compensation for his service. Additionally, beneficiaries of an estate may be able to remove the appointed executor if he or she is not capable of properly fulfilling his or her duties.
As a general rule, the original document must be presented for probate. Probate of a copy or duplicate of a will is not permitted unless the absence of the original is satisfactorily explained to the court. If a properly proved copy or duplicate of a will that has been lost or destroyed is presented to the court, it may be admitted to probate. Some states have special proceedings to handle such occurrences. A thorough and diligent search for the will is necessary before a copy can be probated as a lost will.
The personal representative must understand and abide by the fiduciary duties, such as a duty to keep money in interest bearing account and to treat all beneficiaries equally. Not complying with the fiduciary duties may allow interested persons to petition for the removal of the personal representative and hold the personal representative liable for any harm to the estate.
If you've changed jobs over the years, it's quite likely that you have several different 401(k) retirement plans still open with past employers or maybe even several different IRA accounts. You may want to consider consolidating these accounts into one individual IRA. Consolidating of accounts allows for better investment choices, lower costs, a larger selection of investments, less paperwork, and easier management.