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Help Wanted: Counsel’s Assistance for Probate

Texas has taken great efforts to make the probate process as quick and affordable as possible while still maintaining the integrity of the system.  As part of this overall theme, Texas recognizes several abbreviated probate process (e.g. independent administration, muniment of title, small estate affidavits) that require only limited filings and usually a single brief hearing in order to transfer property out of the decedent’s name and into the name of the decedent’s beneficiaries or heirs.

While Texas has created these abbreviated probate process, Texas does not recognize a “do it yourself” probate. Rather, an attorney is required to initiate the probate process because only a licensed attorney may represent a third-party in court.  Steele v. McDonald, 202 S.W.3d 926 (Tex. App. — Waco 2006) (Read more here).

Therefore, an attorney is required in all probate proceedings because the person applying to open the decedent’s estate is not actually representing themselves.  Instead, the applicant is representing the estate of the person that died and the applicant’s actions can impact the rights of others (e.g. other heirs or creditors).  Therefore, Texas law requires all applicants to obtain the assistance of an attorney in order to open a probate estate as part of the probate system established to offer each heir and creditor a fair opportunity to claim their interest in each estate probated.

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