I have my Dad’s will who just passed away. Now What?
This is a typical situation where one of the children had or finds the deceased parent’s will and is not quite sure what to do. The adult child may not be quite sure what should happen next.
Texas law requires that a will be admitted to probate within four years of death in order for it to have legal effect. This message, unfortunately, has not always been conveyed to family members. They somehow imagine that just the existence of the document will take care of all the estate issues. This is not the case.
Probate simply means that the will is filed with the Court along with an application to admit the will to probate. The means the Judge will rule upon whether the will was properly signed, witnessed and notarized; whether it is within the four year statute of limitations; and whether the proponent of the will was named as an executor. Generally after a brief hearing before the Court to prove up these issues, the will is admitted to probate.
Then the executor asks for letters testamentary which is the formal document from the Court giving the executor the power to pay bills, transfer funds, sell property and divide the remaining estate among the heirs.
Just having the will around the house without taking these steps accomplishes nothing. Then the unintended result may be that the title to real estate remains in the name of the deceased person, a real problem if the property needs to be sold.