Skip to Main Content
my account

Probate Law

Statutes, books, and online resources on the topic of probate law in Texas.

What is estate administration?

Estate administration is the most formal probate method. The court validates the will (if there is one) and appoints someone to handle the person's assets and debts. This person, called an executor or administrator, collects the person's property, pays off debts and taxes, and distributes the remainder to the people mentioned in the will or according to Texas law.

This is done with some degree of court supervision to ensure that the property is divided properly and fairly. Administration can be used with a will or when there is no will.

Texas Law

Understanding the Law

What are letters testamentary?

"Letters testamentary" or "letters of administration" are legal documents issued by the court. They give the executor or administrator the authority to manage the deceased person's estate. The letters are widely recognized across the United States as proof that the executor has the right to handle the estate's affairs and make decisions on behalf of the deceased.

Most financial institutions will ask to see letters testamentary before authorizing a transfer of funds from an account. Some institutions may have additional policies, like a requirement for the letters to be issued within the last 60 days. 

Texas Law

Understanding the Law

Do I need administration?

If there is a will, transferring assets typically requires administration. If an estate has no debts, the heirs may be able to probate the will as a muniment of title. This can be a faster, more efficient alternative.

If there is no will, the need for administration will depend on specific circumstances. According to Section 306.002(c) of the Estates Code, administration is necessary when:

(1) there are two or more debts against the estate;

(2) there is a desire for the county court to partition the estate among the distributees;

(3) the administration is necessary to receive or recover funds or other property due the estate; or

(4) the administration is necessary to prevent real property in a decedent's estate from becoming a danger to the health, safety, or welfare of the general public.

If administration is not required, the heirs may be able to use a simpler probate procedure. Our Informal Methods page discusses some alternatives. 

Talk to a lawyer to find out if you need administration for a specific case. 

Understanding the Law

Dependent vs. Independent Administration

Texas has two types of administration: independent and dependent administration. Each has a different level of court supervision. 

Dependent Administration

Dependent administration requires the executor to get court approval for most tasks. Court oversight helps ensure that the estate is managed properly every step of the way. 

Independent Administration

Independent administration involves minimal court oversight. It's typically faster and less expensive. Probate courts can order independent administration when:

  • the will specifies independent administration; or
  • all heirs or beneficiaries agree to independent administration.

An independent executor must work closely with their attorney to avoid misconduct. Estate representatives can be sued for failing to comply with important laws. 

Texas Law

Understanding the Law