Frequently Asked Questions About Estate Planning and Probate Law in Texas

Can I prepare my own will?

Yes, but the law is very specific about what constitutes a valid will.  If you prepare your own will or use a generic form that does not comply with Texas legal requirements, it may not be valid.

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If my husband died and his will left everything to me, is it necessary to probate his will?

Yes, because your husband's will does not transfer his property to you until it has been probated by a court.  If at your death your husband's will was never probated, it will be necessary to probate your husband's will and your will in order for your children to sell your home.

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Is there a time period for probate of a will?

Generally, you have four years from the date of death to probate a will.  After that, the heirs (who may be different from the beneficiaries under the will) must be notified and can object to the will being probated.

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If my husband died without a will, doesn't everything pass to me as the surviving spouse?

Not necessarily.  Under the Texas laws of descent and distribution, if your husband was survived by any child by a prior marriage, your husband's entire community property estate would pass to his children, not to you as the surviving spouse.  Same if the wife dies first with children from a prior marriage.

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Does my will control who gets all of my property at my death?

No.  A will only controls a person's "probate" assets at death.  "Nonprobate" assets are controlled by contractual arrangements including beneficiary designations (on life insurance, IRAs and other retirement assets), POD (payable on death) beneficiary designations on accounts, and joint accounts with right of survivorship.  These nonprobate accounts can result in a person's will not being fully carried out because these types of arrangements override the will.  For this reason, it is important for your estate planning attorney to coordinate all of your probate and nonprobate assets.

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I look forward to answering your questions about estate planning and probate law.

To make an appointment, please contact my office.


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Houston, Texas 77027

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