The first step would be to get a copy of the death certificate from the funeral home. They have to send off to the Dept of Vital Records to request copies of it and it will typically take 4-6 weeks to get it in. Once you get a copy of the death certificate, any family member or close friend can file a petition with the Probate court where the deceased passed to open a probate case and be appointed Administrator.
Under Texas law, there is a requirement that the Adminstrator or Executor have a local attorney assist with the probate case and administer the estate
. In Steele v. McDonald,
202 S.W.3d 926 (Tex. App. -- Waco 2006), the court held that a non-lawyer may not appear pro se
in the capacity as an estate's independent executor. The court reasoned that, since the executor is acting in a representative capacity, appearing pro se
would constitute the unauthorized practice of law.
So there is no way getting around hiring an attorney.
This is the general way that probate cases proceed. The first thing that needs to happen is someone would have to file to open a probate case at the Probate court in the county where the deceased passed. The probate court clerk will have all the paperwork in a packet. Once the applicant completes it, they file it with the clerk along with a copy of the death certificate and any will (if there was one). The clerk will set a court date where applicant will appear and the judge will officially name them Administrator of the estate. They will then have the power to gather all the assets of the estate, including bank accounts, stocks, investments, personal property, etc. They then have to file an inventory with the court of all the assets in the estate. Admin then pays all the expenses of the estate from any named creditors. They then prepare and file an accounting of all bills paid and debts settled.
In Texas, a simple estate will be open for a minimum of four months from the date the Admin is appointed and notices are mailed to creditors. This term is mandated by statute and is instituted to allow creditors of the decedent an opportunity to file claims against the estate. In many cases, no claims are filed and the estate can be closed shortly after the expiration of the statutory notice periods.
The Admin is also responsible for filing a final tax return for the decedent as well as for the estate. But I would suggest getting an accountant or CPA to handle that for you.
Once the minimum 4 months has passed and all debts have been paid, the Admin can disburse the remaining assets to the beneficiaries according to the terms of the will and file the final accounting and close the estate.