One of the first steps in administering a loved one’s estate is to determine whether he or she had a Will. If a Will is not located, the estate may require an administration in absence of a Will. If you have been appointed as executor or trustee in a Will or Trust, or if you stand to inherit from a loved one who died without a will and are seeking to be appointed the Administrator of your loved one’s estates, you will need an experienced attorney to assist you in the transfer of estate assets through probate.
The most common form of administration is an independent administration. In an independent administration, the executor or administrator is allowed to administer the decedent’s estate without court supervision. The executor or administrator need not ask court permission to sell or distribute assets. However, if the sale or distribution does not take place correctly, then the executor or administrator can be personally liable to the beneficiaries or heirs.
When a decedent dies without a Will, the heirs may collectively designate a person to serve as the independent administrator. Before this happens, however, the court must determine who the heirs are and this is done via an heirship proceeding.
Dependent administrations result when the Will fails to provide for an independent administration and the distributees fail to agree on the advisability of an independent administration.
In a dependent administration, the executor or administrator must be bonded before being installed to act on behalf of the estate. In addition, the executor or administrator must seek the court’s authorization before he may sell assets, settle claims, etc. Further, the administration is required to file an annual accounting and a final accounting. Dependent administrations tend to be more expensive and time consuming as compared to independent administrations.
An heirship proceeding is really a declaratory judgment action whereby the heirs of a decedent dying intestate (without a will) are determined by the court. The heirs of a decedent are determined in accordance with the laws of descent and distribution in Texas. Normally, an administration on a decedent’s estate may not be opened after four years have elapsed from decedent’s death. However, the heirship of a decedent may be determined at any time.