What is the purpose of probate court?

You may have heard people whose loved ones have passed away state that they are waiting on their inheritance, but the “will is in probate.” What does that mean?

Probate is a court process for validating a will. A person may have created a handwritten will or a typed will; either way its legitimacy must be proved to be valid. Probate of a will must occur within a four-year time period from the time of death.

What happens in probate court? In court, verification that the will was executed properly per Texas’ requirements is performed. The deceased must have been at least 18 (unless lawfully married or serving in the military), have been “of sound mind,” not have been forced or deceived into writing the will and must have had intent to bequeath property or assets.

What is a self-proved will? A testator my incorporate into his or her will — or attach to it — an affidavit of a specific form that contains required statements to validate the will, and is signed by a notary public. A will that is just signed and notarized does not qualify as a self-proved will.

What if a will is not proven in the court? This would be a “denied probate.” It a will is found to not be credible, it would be as if there was never a will, and the decedent’s property or assets would go to his or her heirs in the same manner as it would without a will, which may not be the desire of the deceased.

Having a will that is executed properly is very important if you want your property bequeathed to your heirs in a specific way. The wording and validity of the will are both very important, or one or more of your heirs could contest the will, holding it up in probate court for months or even years. An estate attorney can ensure that all of the “i’s” are dotted and “t’s” crossed, giving you peace of mind.

Source: Texas Young Lawyers Association, “Texas Probate Passport,” accessed April. 30, 2015