Estate Administration in Texas: the Easy Way or the Hard Way

Barbara R. Light, Christopher C. Burt

June 30, 2020

After the passing of a loved one, figuring out how to appropriately administer their estate can seem like a daunting task. In Texas, there are two tracks for probating or administering a deceased person’s estate: independent and dependent. Before being appointed, most Texas courts require that (1) the proposed executor or administrator is represented by counsel and (2) that the type of administration has been determined. It is important to speak to an attorney regarding which type would be best given under the specific circumstances related to your loved one’s estate. The key difference between the two types of administrations is the level of court supervision and oversight.

The first type is an independent administration. A court may approve an independent administration if it is specified in a decedent’s will or if all the beneficiaries agree to an independent administration. In an independent administration, the personal representative can complete most of the administration tasks without permission from the court.  These tasks could include selling property, paying estate expenses, and/or distributing assets to beneficiaries.  Upon the conclusion of an independent administration, there is no formal requirement for any closing procedure.

If the required language in a decedent’s will does not specify that the administration should be independent or if the consent of all beneficiaries cannot be obtained, the court will proceed with a dependent administration. In a dependent administration, the personal representative is required to petition the court in order to complete administrative tasks such as selling estate property or distributing assets and, further, must be bonded by a surety company before they can undertake the role of administrator of the estate.  In fact, in many circumstances, the administration cannot proceed without first obtaining court authority.  In a dependent administration, the request for payment of expenses, including attorney’s fees, requests for distribution, and requests to retain counsel, to just name a few, are reviewed and approved by the court.  Each year that the administration is open and at the time the administration has been concluded, the personal representative is required to file an accounting, supported by receipts and bank statements, which evidences all actions taken by the personal representative.

One reason, however, you may want to opt for a dependent administration is to take advantage of the onerous creditor rules.  In a dependent administration, there are very strict rules about how creditors can prosecute their claims.  If the estate has significant debt, it may be advantageous to proceed in a dependent administration.

Under either type of administration, it is important to consult legal counsel to ensure compliance with the Texas Estates Code. There is so much to think about after a loved one’s passing. If you need assistance administering the estate of a loved one, please contact the attorneys at BoyarMiller.