Probate options when its been more than 4 years...

Time flies. The usual scenario is parent 1 passed away, parent 2 passed away 5 years later, and now the kids are stuck with a mess.

Today we will talk about what happens if the decedent had a will. 

In Texas, you have 4 years to probate a will, in general.  Thankfully, you still have options since we often get passed that point. What you need to do largely depends on what the person had that needs to be transferred.

1. If there is only stuff (pots and pans, personal property) to deal with:

You don't have to do anything. Just hopefully follow the decedent's wishes.

2. If there is real property or financial accounts in the name of the decedent:

You have to do something. In Texas, you can "probate the will as a muniment of title" after 4 years, just like you could before 4 years have passed. The hurdle here comes in that you will have to show good cause that you are "not in default" by waiting more than 4 years, but a reasonable "I didn't know" is usually good enough, and most courts will approve it. You also have to get service on all those who would be heirs at law (if there was no will) or have them sign off on a waiver requesting this process and that they are in agreement. This makes sense, because without the will, the heirs at law would inherit the estate. This can be tricky if the will changes who would be the heirs. Some counties also require the appointment of an attorney ad litem, which is an added cost, so check with your local rules.

This is sufficient to pass title to real property, and the preferred probate process if you don't have any debts (other than those secured by real property, like a mortgage).  This is what I like to call probate light, as there are fewer requirements (no inventory, no notice to creditors. etc.) and its great for everyone. This process should be sufficient to transfer title to bank and other financial accounts, including insurance. Most of the time it is, but I have had varied success with certain national banks and insurance companies (not naming names, chase and bank of america, you know who you are.)

3. If you are stuck with one of those out of town banks who require letters of some sort:

You have to go ahead and bite the bullet of an administration. If you can get all the heirs on board it can be independent (preferred, cheaper) instead of dependent, but its just like if you had no will at all, This is the penalty for waiting too long.


Take away:

If you are faced with the death of a loved one or are the named executor of a will, there are options. If you waited more than 4 years to deal with it, those options shrink, but you still have some choices. There is never an ideal time to process or handle the business that comes with losing a loved one, but thankfully there are processes in the Estates Code that allow for some simplified procedures. 

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