Ideally, a valid will designates the beneficiaries of an estate, how assets will be divided among beneficiaries, and the name(s) of the executor(s) who will be in charge of carrying out the wishes of the decedent, the person who wrote the will. Most wills call for independent probate administrations as opposed to dependent administrations. As the title indicates, this type of administration does not depend on the court for oversight, allowing the independent executor to function without court supervision.
Duties of the Executor
While the independent administrator must complete several steps to probate the will, it is a far simpler process than probate with a dependent administrator and certainly easier and less costly than probate without a will. The executor first must file an application for probate. She or he must then give notice, appear for a short hearing, file a proof and swear an oath. An independent administrator usually does not have to post bond, making the process even more cost effective.
Once the independent administrator is named by the court, relatively little court interaction is required. According to the Texas Estates Code, the independent administrator, once appointed, assesses and collects the estate’s assets, pays debts and claims against the estate, and distributes any remaining assets to the beneficiaries.
Notice to Creditors
Paying debts and claims against the estate means that the executor must practice due diligence in identifying creditors and paying off debts. Within a month of being named executor, the personal representative must notify the estate’s creditors of the decedent’s death by publishing a notice in the decedent’s local newspaper, informing anyone with claims against the estate to present those claims within a specified time period. The notice also indicates the date of issuance of letters, the address where creditors should send claims, and how exactly the claim should be addressed, to the representative for example, or the representative’s attorney, or perhaps in care of the estate itself.
A sample of a published creditor’s notice follows:
“Notice is hereby given that original Letters Testamentary for the Estate of ______, Deceased, were issued on ______, in Cause No. ______, pending in [Court] ______ County, Texas, to: [names of clients].
All persons having claims against this Estate which is currently being administered are required to present them to the undersigned within the time and in the manner prescribed by law.”
Within two months, the executor must also send a notice to each secured creditor via registered or certified mail with a return receipt request. Secured creditors include those whose claims are secured by a mortgage, a deed of trust, or another property lien. Proof of those notices should be filed in the county clerk’s office. According to Texas Estates Code, executors are not required to notify unsecured creditors, such as credit card companies. However, notifying them is advisable to ensure that debts are paid appropriately.
Because of the exact dates and specifications required for independent testate administrations along with the other challenges of executing an estate, a probate lawyer is an excellent resource for accurate advice and guidance.
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