Houston Probate Lawyer

Probate Attorney Scott D. Reiner assists in all probate and estate law matters. The Probate Process can take many forms, and Scott assists clients in determining whether to probate and what type of probate is necessary.

Did your loved one leave a will? In Texas, when someone passes with a will it is called a “testate” estate. The decedent is called the “testator” and their wishes will be contained in the will. Probate Attorney Scott D. Reiner can assist with the probate of a will. However, it is important to apply for the probate within 4 years of the date of death.

Does the will name an executor? Does that executor have to serve? If the will names an executor, then that person can serve (or choose not to). Anyone interested in the estate can apply for probate. If the named executor does not want to serve but all other parties agree on another person, then the parties can allow the agreed executor to serve. Otherwise, the Court can appoint an executor.

Should I challenge a will? This can be a complicated question, but Estate Attorney Scott D. Reiner can assist in evaluating whether to take this step. Many wills contain a “no-contest” clause. The effect of this clause can mean that if a challenge is made and is unsuccessful, then other gifts (i.e. “bequests”) can be forfeited. This can be a big risk, and Wills Attorney Scott D. Reiner can assist an heir in evaluating this option.

What happens if a challenge is successful? Each case will differ. If a prior, valid will existed then that will may be probated. On the other hand, if no prior valid wills exist, then the estate will pass through “intestacy” (see below).

What is intestacy? Intestacy, or an “Intestate Estate” is an estate without a will. When no will exists, a decedent’s property will pass according to the laws of descent and distribution. As there is no will, there will be no heirs. Why are there no heirs? Because it has not yet been determined who can inherit.

How do I determine who inherits when there is no will? In Texas, when no will exists there must be a determination of heirship. The heirs can by multiple means, and the proper avenue to take depends on the estate. Estate Attorney Scott D. Reiner can assist if a determination of heirship is necessary.

Why should you retain a probate lawyer?

Consulting a probate lawyer in Houston, TX isn't always an easy decision. Oftentimes, our clients are already dealing with the death of a loved one when probate issues develop. But retaining a probate attorney is essential.

You'll want an experienced probate attorney to represent your family if:

  • The court will be distributing the estate
  • You suspect that there is something wrong with the will and estate
  • Other interested parties have raised a dispute about the stipulations of the will

Probate isn't always necessary, and it's not always a legal fight. However, the process can make it easier to distribute assets and honor the wishes of a deceased loved one. If you have any questions for a probate lawyer, contact the Law Office of Scott D. Reiner, PLLC now.

When Texas Resident Dies Without a Will

In Texas, when a person dies without leaving a will, the heirs (i.e. persons that inherit the estates) are provided by law and identified through a process known as a Determination of Heirship. In that scenario, the Court will appoint an Attorney Ad Litem to confirm the facts contained in the Application. Two disinterested witnesses will be required to provide testimony in support of the application. After a hearing, the Court will enter a Judgment Declaring Heirship containing the heirs of the estate and their respective interests according to law.

When There is a Will

No Determination of Heirship is generally necessary in Texas if a person passes with a valid Will This is because a Will itself usually identifies the heirs and their interests. If a Will exists, it is submitted along with an Application to Probate the Will. After a hearing, the Court will admit a valid Will to probate and appoint the personal representative known as an executor.`

What are typical procedures for a probate case?

The procedures vary depending on what type of probate proceeded is appropriate. Citations in probate are served by posting, and may be served personally in the event there is no will. Citations that are published are also now included online. See Texas Estates Code §51.054.

If there is no will, then an heirship proceeding may be required. Texas Estates Code §202.002. Heirships require personal notice to all named heirs and the appointment of an Attorney Ad Litem, whose job it is to confirm the facts in the heirship application submitted (i.e. family history and heirs). See Texas Estates Code §202.008 & §202.009. Once the Attorney Ad Litem has completed their investigation, the heirship hearing can be scheduled and the heirs officially declared. Texas Estates Code §202.201.

Administration is the part most people refer to as probate. After a personal representative is appointed, they will publish notice to creditors, gather the property of the estate, and prepare an inventory. The purpose of administration is to settle the estate's debts and then distribute the property among the heirs. Time periods are prescribed for each component of the administration and administration generally takes anywhere from six months to four years.

Fact scenarios from prior cases

· One client submitted a will that named her executor and disinherited the client's sister. The sister challenged the Will before it was admitted to probate. The sister alleged Decedent lacked capacity, but failed to provide the requisite proof following discovery. Scott filed a Motion for Summary Judgment and the Court overruled the contest without trial.

· In a real property dispute, one party claimed in ownership interest in the property because they had given money to the other around the time the property was purchased. Scott was retained and discovered that the party disputing title also executed a gift deed for the money when the party contributed it, therefore negating any legitimate claim. Scott secured relief from title claims for his client and cleared the path for the client's sale.

· In another real property dispute, Decedent had deeded his house to his daughter in 2011. Shortly before Decedent passed, however, his son had obtained another deed for that same property that granted the son the property. After Scott was retained, he filed suit to have the subsequent deed invalidated and was able to secure relief by agreement for his client.

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Scott D. Reiner

"I keep clients informed and create positive outcomes in uncertain situations"