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Probate Law

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

 General Information

This guide covers the basic principles of probate law in Texas. If you need legal advice or help with a specific case, please talk to an attorney. If you need help finding one, please visit our Legal Help page.

What is probate? | Do I need probate?Which probate method is right for me?Do I need an attorney?Important TermsE-Books | Books at the State Law Library

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process to distribute a person's property after they die. With court approval, the will is validated, the debts are paid, and the rest of the property passes to the heirs. If there is no will, the estate may still have to go through probate.

Texas has several types of probate methods.

Estate administration is the most formal. In administration, the court appoints a specific person to manage the whole process. This person usually has an attorney to help with all the tasks.

Smaller estates are often settled through faster, less formal methods. With a court order in hand, the heirs can directly collect the property from banks, transfer real property, etc.

Texas Law

Texas laws governing probate are primarily in the Texas Estates Code. Older publications may refer to the Texas Probate Code, as it was known before 2014. 

Understanding the Law

Do I need probate?

The need for probate typically increases with the size and complexity of the estate. Depending on the situation, probate may be necessary to:

  • transfer property or title;
  • pay the creditors;
  • determine the heirs;
  • resolve disputes.

Not all property passes through the probate process. Nonprobate property passes directly to the beneficiaries without court approval. This may include certain types of bank accounts, life insurance proceeds, and other assets.

Understanding the Law

Which probate method is right for me?

Only an attorney can answer this question. Our guide provides general information about different probate methods, but it is not a substitute for legal advice.

Understanding the Law

Do I need an attorney?

This will depend on the probate method and on the court's policy. 

Estate administration requires an attorney. This is because the estate representative represents the interests of many parties. Bexar County's Court Policy Regarding "Pro Se" Applicants explains:

As executor of a decedent’s estate, you don’t represent only yourself. An executor represents the interests of beneficiaries and creditors. [...] The lawyer you hire represents you in your capacity as executor and assists you in representing those for whom you are responsible. 

Some informal probate methods may not require an attorney. The rules may differ from court to court, so it's a good idea to check the local requirements before applying.

Understanding the Law

Important Terms

Texas Law

Additional Resources

E-Books Available from the Texas State Law Library

Books at the Texas State Law Library