Estate Administration is the legal process for collecting the assets of a deceased person; paying their creditors, outstanding bills, funeral expenses, and expenses of last illness; and distributing the remaining assets to the deceased person’s heirs at law, or beneficiaries under a Will. The individual acting on behalf an estate is called an Administrator.
A person seeking to be appointed Administrator of an estate must hire a probate attorney to assist them because a legal proceeding is required for an Administrator to be appointed on an estate. In Texas, only probate courts or county courts at law have authority to appoint an Administrator of a deceased person’s estate. It is these courts’ responsibility to ensure that the Administrator is a person eligible to act as Administrator of the deceased person’s estate and that they can qualify to act as Administrator under Texas probate and estate administration laws. Because an Administrator is considered a fiduciary, they must be represented by a probate attorney when applying to the court to be appointed Administrator and when taking certain actions on behalf of the deceased person’s estate. When a person is authorized by the court to act as Administrator of an estate, they receive “Letters of Administration”, which is their license to deal with third parties in relation to the estate.
In Texas, there are two types of administration: dependent administration and independent administration. In a dependent administration, the Administrator must have the court’s permission to take any action as it concerns the estate, including when and whether they can sell estate property, pay the debts of the estate, and distribute any remaining assets to the heirs at law, or beneficiaries under a Will. A dependent administrator must also be able to “bond”. Because of all the legal requirements involved in a dependent administration, this type of administration is the mostly costly and time-consuming. An estate planning attorney can assist you with creating an estate plan that avoids probate with a dependent administration.
In an independent administration, the Administrator can act “independent” of the court including on such tasks as collecting and selling estate property, paying creditors, and distributing estate assets. However, an independent administration can only be created under a Will or by agreement of all the distributees of a deceased person’s estate. Not only must they agree on the advisability of an independent administration, but also on who will act as the “Independent Administrator”. This is generally not an issue when the heirs are close members of the same family, such as adult children who are also biological siblings, or adult children and a surviving spouse who is also the biological parent of the adult children. But when the heirs are “split” as in the case of a blended family, agreement can be difficult, if not impossible to achieve.
When a loved one passes away, a probate attorney can assist you with determining whether an administration of the estate is necessary and what type of administration can be accomplished given the type of assets and the family relationships involved.
The information provided on this page is for educational purposes only and is NOT legal advice. You should consult a probate and estate administration attorney if you have any questions about the information contained on this page or about your particular circumstances or those of someone you know.
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