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Probate Law

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

How do I see a copy of the will?

Once a will is filed for probate, it becomes a public record. Interested parties can request a copy from the court.

Understanding the Law

What if someone refuses to give up the will?

A person who holds the will doesn't have to show it to the family members or heirs. However, after the maker of the will passes away, the person who has physical possession of the will must:

  • give it to the executor named in the will;
  • file the will for probate; or
  • deliver the will to the court clerk.

If the person who has the will refuses to give it up, an interested person can write a complaint to the court. The judge will ask them why the will hasn't been delivered. If the will custodian can't provide a good reason and still refuses to deliver the will, the judge can get them arrested until they comply.

Intentionally destroying, hiding, or altering a will may be prosecuted as a state jail felony. 

Texas Law

Who can contest a will?

Any interested party can contest the validity of a will. This can be done before or after the court admits the will to probate.

When an application to probate a will is filed, the court will post a public notice in the courthouse or online. It will include information about the hearing where the will may be contested before it is admitted to probate.

If the court has already admitted the will to probate, the will may be contested within 2 years (with some exceptions). 

Because challenging a will can be expensive and time consuming, wills often try to minimize disputes by using a "no-contest" clause. It might say that anyone contesting the will's validity will lose their inheritance or get a nominal sum like $1. These provisions aren't always enforceable, so it's important to talk to an attorney. 

Texas Law

Understanding the Law

What are the reasons to contest a will?

A will cannot be contested just because a beneficiary is unhappy with their share. The court must have a legal reason to declare a will invalid. For example:

  • the will was altered or forged;
  • the will was written under undue influence;
  • the will wasn't properly signed;
  • the author lacked mental capacity to write a will;
  • the author was deceived about the will's contents or meaning; or 
  • the time to probate the will has expired.

Understanding the Law

Can a family member be disinherited?

In Texas, you can disinherit a family member or leave them out of the will. There might be some complications, so it's important to talk to an attorney. The surviving spouse and children usually qualify for some protections regardless of what the will says. 

Most property acquired by each spouse during marriage is considered community property (with some exceptions). The surviving spouse retains ownership of half of all community property. Their half cannot be given away by the deceased spouse's will. 

Other protections for the spouse and children may include:

  • the right to live in their primary home;
  • the right to use exempt property while administration is ongoing; and
  • financial support for one year.

Texas Law

Understanding the Law

How does divorce affect a will?

If a couple gets a divorce, the ex-spouse will no longer inherit according to the will. This law applies if the will was written before the divorce and has no language saying otherwise.

For probate purposes, the ex-spouse and the ex-spouse's relatives will be treated as if they have died before the will maker. The property will go to alternate beneficiaries or become residuary property. The former spouse or their relatives also won't be able to serve as executors. 

This law applies to divorces, annulments, and declarations that the marriage is void. 

Texas Law

Understanding the Law