Reginald’s father died two months ago, leaving a will naming Reginald as his Independent Executor without bond. Reginald has read online about the responsibilities of an executor of an estate and thinks how hard can it be? He’ll file his father’s will at the courthouse like he would file a deed. Then he’ll distribute his father’s estate property to the beneficiaries, named in the will, including himself. Can Reginald proceed to operate as executor of his father’s estate without a lawyer?
Under almost all circumstances, Texas does not allow the person applying to probate a will and be appointed as executor of an estate to represent themselves in the process. Instead, applicant must be represented by a licensed attorney.
Even if the law did not require representation by an attorney, practical reasons can make assistance necessary. For instance, under current law, as of July, 2016, all courts in Texas require probate documents, including applications for probate, to be filed electronically (referred to as “e-filing”).
In other words, Reginald cannot just walk into the probate or county clerk’s office, hand over the will and application in person and have it filed for probate. Instead, he will need to e-file his application. Although theoretically, an individual could e-file a document with the court, most haven’t mastered this task.
The Texas Estates Code spells out the process that must be followed to probate a will and to obtain Letters Testament to authorize the executor to act on behalf of the estate. Any lawyer who is knowledgeable and experienced with that process can assist Reginald.
Lawyers, such as Elder Law lawyers and lawyers who specialize in probating of wills and the administration of decedent’s estates will be particularly qualified to assist Reginald. These lawyers typically will be versed in drafting wills and other estate planning documents, such as trusts and powers of attorney as well.
Sandra W. Reed is an attorney with Katten & Benson, an Elder Law firm handling probate of estates, wills, trusts and Medicaid planning in Fort Worth. She lives in beautiful Somervell County, near Chalk Mountain.