When it comes to making a will, it is essential to appoint a person to act as your executor, also known as a personal representative in some states. The executor is the individual who will be in charge of your estate after your death. They are responsible for collecting your assets, keeping them safe, paying debts and taxes, and distributing your assets according to the terms of your will. In certain states, the heirs or beneficiaries of an estate may choose to have the court exempt them from the requirement of managing dependent persons and designating independent administration. In states that have adopted a set of laws called the Uniform Probate Code, judges can disqualify anyone they deem unsuitable in a formal proceeding.
The executor of the estate distributes the assets, pays the bills, and performs their duties without judicial supervision. If your loved one passed away without leaving a will, you can start the probate process by going to the probate court in the county where your loved one died and submitting the death certificate and a request (or petition) to start legalization. Under the supervision of the probate court, this usually includes the disbursement of estate assets, the payment of taxes due, and the coverage of outstanding debts. Even if the will names the executor, they must go to the local probate court in the county where the deceased lived to “open” the estate. These responsibilities remain unchanged regardless of whether the probate administration is dependent or independent. If denied, a substitute or contingent executor named in the will (or an administrator appointed by the probate court judge) will assume responsibility.
In Texas, default is a dependent administration, which means that the executor depends on the authority and supervision of the court to take steps in the probate process, such as selling assets and paying off debts. It is possible to work with accountants and lawyers to perform some of the tasks required in probate legalization if circumstances permit. It may be possible that all assets can be transferred in a way that avoids probate (for example, through an active trust or designating beneficiaries in bank accounts and retirement accounts), or perhaps the estate is small or simple enough to be eligible for a probate shortcut. In such cases, the probate court judge will appoint a person, usually a close relative, to perform this function. Once all distributions have been completed, they return to the probate court and ask them to close the estate and release them as executor. The two functions are similar but distinct: an executor executes a will under supervision of a probate court while a trustee is responsible for a trust.
If no payment instructions are provided in their will or if they die without one, then the probate court may suggest paying a reasonable fee. The first step is to submit the will to the probate court to ensure that all assets are transferred as specified.