Texas is known for its big skies, generous portion sizes, and straightforward probate process. Anyone who has ever played with a Rubik’s Cube knows that straightforward doesn’t mean simple, however. While the steps required of probating a will in Texas are easy to follow for those who are professionally trained they are not without pitfalls. Consulting an experienced probate attorney is an essential part of probating a will in Texas lest the executor fall victim to one of the following common mistakes—or any of the many others too numerous to mention in this article.
Five Common Mistakes Made by Texas Estate Executors
The role of estate executor is assigned at the time an individual (referred to as the testator) writes their will. However, it is only after the testator’s passing and the court’s approval of the designation of executor that the duty becomes official. When this happens, the executor inherits a long to-do list with ample room for error (or heir or if you appreciate a good pun). All too often these errors include one or more of the following.
- Failure to Properly Inventory Assets
Among the first and most important tasks of an estate executor is to compile a comprehensive inventory of the deceased’s assets. Even if this were done ahead of time—as it would have been in a perfect world—it is crucial to confirm that the inventory is complete. After all, the executor is responsible for paying the deceased’s debts and protecting their assets and these are both tasks that can only be completed with a comprehensive picture of what the deceased owned.
- Failure to Probate in Time
In Texas, the executor of an estate has four years to file the deceased’s will and initiate the probate process. Failure to adhere to this time limit could result in your loved one’s assets being distributed according to state intestacy laws instead of according to their last wishes which, in itself, can give rise to a whole host of other problems.
- Making Distributions too Early
It is the executor’s fiduciary duty to protect the estate’s assets. If pushed by family, personal haste, or unknowing to make distributions before confirming no creditors remain unpaid, the executor may be found personally liable for violating this duty.
- Improperly Paying Creditors
A significant part of the probate process is notifying creditors and determining which, if any, are valid debts of the estate and when and how much to pay the creditors. If done incorrectly, the executor could be found personally liable for failure to provide proper legal notice to creditors of the estate or for paying creditors too early or paying those that have no claim to be paid.
- Failing to Enlist Professional Help
The common mistakes just described are only a small number among many which is why it is important to consult an experienced probate attorney when tasked with administrating a loved one’s estate. Not only does doing so protect you from making mistakes for which you might be found personally liable, it also protects your family and loved ones from conflict about issues that, in reality, have simple solutions.
To learn more about serving as executor of an estate in Texas or to address any other issue related to estate planning, do not hesitate to contact the Hailey-Petty Law Firm either by calling (512) 910-8977 in Austin, (210) 570-2458 in San Antonio or by using the contact form on our website.