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 persons who are actually given the job of dealing with the deceased's assets are called "personal representatives" or "PRs". If the deceased left a valid will, the PRs are the "executors" appointed by the will—"I appoint X and Y to be my executors etc." If there is no will or if the will does not contain a valid appointment of executors (for example if they are all dead) then the PRs are called "administrators". So, executors obtain a grant of probate that permits them to deal with the estate and administrators obtain a grant of administration that lets them do the same. Apart from that distinction, the function of executors and administrators is exactly the same.
Procrastination is the biggest enemy of estate planning. While none of us likes to think about dying, improper or no planning can lead to family disputes, assets getting into the wrong hands, long court litigation, and excess money paid in estate taxes. So pick a time to get started. To quote Benjamin Franklin, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Administrator of an Estate is the legal term referring to a person appointed by the Court to administer the estate of a person who died intestate (without leaving a will). This administrator will enjoy privileges similar to those of an executor, including the settling of debts, the payment of taxes and funeral expenses, and the distribution of the remaining assets.
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.
Muniment of Title provides a streamlined procedure for probating a will, and is the only means by which you can probate a will more than four years after a decedent’s death. With this process, the will is filed for probate, but the Court does not appoint an executor or administrator for the estate. Instead, once the Court signs its order establishing the will as the decedent’s true last will, a certified copy of the will and the court order can be used to transfer title in any property owned by the decedent to those listed in the will. The will and the order serve as an equivalent to a new deed to any real estate.
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