When a loved one dies or becomes incapacitated in Texas or Arkansas, it is very likely that you will have to have some matters settled by a Probate court. Probate is a specialized court in the judicial system that handles Wills, Estates, and Guardianships. The role of the Probate court is to make sure that a deceased person’s debts are paid and that assets are distributed to the rightful beneficiaries, whether the deceased had a Will or not. In matters of incapacity, the Probate court is responsible for approving Guardianships. To ensure that your interests as the spouse, child, or parent of the deceased or incapacitated person are protected in Probate court, you need an experienced attorney to represent you.
Handling Probate Court Matters in Texas and Arkansas
In Texas, whether the deceased had a Will or not, the estate must go through Probate court. In the difficult aftermath of a loved one’s death, it may be overwhelming to think about dealing with a court proceeding to settle the estate, but an attorney can do much of the work on your behalf.
Once you or your attorney has filed an application informing the court of the person’s death and submitted a copy of the Will, you will have to wait for at least two weeks before a hearing is scheduled to give others a chance to contest the Will. The executor named in the Will must be approved by the judge and should be represented by an attorney. It is the executor’s responsibility to:
- Identify all estate property
- Pay debts and outstanding bills
- Distribute assets
If a dispute arises at any point during the process—over who the executor should be, who the rightful heirs are, whether the Will is authentic, or any other matter—the judge will hear testimony and review evidence to settle it. Again, you can protect yourself throughout the process by having an experienced Texas Probate attorney working for you.
In Arkansas, small and uncontested estates may be able to avoid Probate with the help of an attorney. While the process is slightly different in Arkansas, our attorneys are fully qualified to handle Arkansas Probate matters as well.
Guardianship: Helping Those Who Can’t Help Themselves
Discovering that your parent or spouse can no longer care for him or herself is a difficult reality to face. If that loved one does not have a Durable Power of Attorney, unfortunately, the challenge is only just beginning. Getting yourself named as guardian of an incapacitated adult is a difficult and time-consuming process in Texas, and, in the meantime, the state will be making decisions for your loved one.
In Texas, you are required by law to hire an attorney to represent you throughout the Guardianship process. This attorney must be certified by the state to handle Guardianship matters. Our attorneys can be here for you at each step of the Guardianship process, which includes:
- Registering with the Judicial Branch Certification Commission
- Taking an online course and exam
- Undergoing an FBI background check if liquid assets of the estate exceed $70,000
- Having an attorney ad litem appointed by the court
- Presenting medical evidence of the loved one’s incapacity
- Attending a hearing for consideration of your request to be a guardian
If you are appointed guardian, the state will continue to oversee the condition of your loved one and approve your expenditures. At the end of the first year, you will have to submit a complete report of the year’s activities in order to get approval to continue as guardian for another year.
As you can see, this is a burdensome process you cannot complete without an attorney. Make sure the attorney you hire is one you trust to look out for you as you look out for your incapacitated loved one.
The Sooner You Contact Us, the Better
Our intention is not to frighten you. Instead, we want you to be prepared so that you can protect your own estate and provide the best possible care for your loved one. When you work with us on an estate plan, we may be able to utilize tools that will help your loved ones avoid Probate court after your death for at least some of your assets. We can also make sure you, your spouse, and your parents have the right kind of Powers of Attorney in place to prevent the need for the Guardianship process in the future.
Have questions? Get answers from our experienced Probate and Guardianship attorneys today. With four offices throughout Northeast Texas, we are conveniently located for clients from Dallas to Little Rock. Call or fill out our contact form to get started today!