Checklist for the Texas Surviving Spouse, Trustee, or Executor – Part 2

Memento mori – “Remember that you have to die”

This is a five-part series designed to assist the surviving spouse, executor, or trustee in the probate process. This checklist may also be helpful to an estate beneficiary. The series is presented in a checklist format. Each checklist can be used independently and can also serve as a reference for successor executors and trustees.

Every estate or trust administration is different. This list is not intended to be a list of everything you will encounter in a Texas trust or estate administration and is for informational purposes only. The list is not intended to be specific legal advice for you. Estate administration is work, and it takes time. Finally, you should read the entire checklist, events and actions in a probate may not follow the order as set forth in this checklist.

memento mori - after the funeral

The Probate or Trust Administration Phases

Over the next few posts we will examine in checklist format the following phases of the Probate or Trust Administration Process:

The checklist continues with the death of a loved one.

Part 2 – After the Funeral

Please feel free to use our interactive checklist, in order to help you along your emotional and complex journey.

 Send Thank You Notes
 Consider Grief CounselingLook for and Gather Important Records:
 Death Certificate (Can be Provided to Probate Attorney After Initial Meeting)
 Social Security Card
 Driver’s License
 Marriage Certificate
 Birth Certificate
 Birth Certificates of Children
 Insurance Policies
 Business Documents and Agreements (Buy-Sell) (Consider if the Business had a Succession Plan – this will be apart from the Individual Estate Planning Process)
 Auto Titles and Registration
 Deeds & Titles to other Property
 Bank Account Information
 Bank Safe Deposit Box Information (Tip: Who can Access the Box and Where is the Key?)
 Financial Account Information (Stocks & Bonds)
 Retirement Account Statements
 Tax Returns (Last Three Years) (Tip: Consider Tax Filing Deadlines)
 Loan Documents & Debt Information
 VA Information (Discharge Papers & VA Claim Number)
 Digital Account Information (Account Information, Passwords)
 Information regarding Intellectual Property Rights
 Social Media Account Information (Access, Information & Legacy Programs)
 Estate Planning Documents (Tip: Powers of Attorney end upon Death)

 Consider if the above Assets have Beneficiary Designations.

 Locate the Will. There is no formal requirement to file a will before death. However, a will can be “vaulted” with the county where the Decedent Resided for a fee. If you cannot locate the original will, you should consider checking with the County Probate Clerk. You should also check with the attorney who prepared the Will – sometimes Attorneys will maintain the original Will. Note, the Executor selects the Probate Attorney, you don’t have to use the Attorney who prepared the Will to probate the Will. Other places to look for an original will include the following: Bank Safe Deposit Boxes, Safes, Gun Safes, Safe Rooms, and Fire Proof Boxes. (Tip: A lot of Estate Planning & Probate Attorneys use blue ink to help us determine that the document is an original. Original documents also often have colored jackets). You should also check with other advisors such as CPAs, tax preparers, financial advisors, and insurance agents. As mentioned below at times and in certain circumstances a copy of a will may be admitted to probate. (Tip: Consider that a few companies offer digital vaulting of important documents such as Wills).

 Review the Will or Trust – Read it. The Will needs to be signed by the Testator and be witnessed by two individuals above the age of 14. Don’t assume the will is valid or invalid. Don’t assume that because its old its invalid. Don’t assume that because it was prepared by an online company that it’s valid. Generally, the Original Will is admitted to probate (meaning filed with the court and retained with the court file). However, in certain circumstances, a copy of a Will can be probated. Note, Texas also recognizes the existence of a “Holographic Will” – this Will needs to be “entirely” in the handwriting of a testator and signed. (Tip: Just signing a typed document doesn’t count). Once you locate the Will you should keep it safe because your Probate Attorney will need to review it at the initial meeting.

 Acknowledgment: You will need a Probate Attorney you cannot represent yourself in Texas Probate.

 Keep beneficiaries informed. There is no formal requirement to make a will public to the beneficiaries by “reading” a Will in Texas. A

 

Lastly, take a deep breath and understand that this process is going to take time. It’s okay to be emotional and working through loss and grief is a necessary part of it.

What are the Next Steps?

In Part 3 we will discuss what to do before filing for Probate.

Regarding any Texas probate or trust administration, you are well advised to seek the assistance of a Texas Probate Attorney to help with the probate process. For questions regarding this topic or other probate or estate questions please contact The Wright Firm, LLP – Board Certified Texas Estate Planning and Probate Attorney & CPA – Paul F. Wright at (214) 780-9696 or paul@thewrightlawyers.com.

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