When it comes to estate planning, many people want their final days and plans to remain private. However, in Texas, most probate cases are public affairs and appear in public records. This means that anyone who is interested in your estate plans can view them. To help understand the laws surrounding this process, here is a comprehensive guide to probate records in Texas. Probate is a process by which a court oversees the authentication of a deceased person's last will and testament, if they have one when they die.
The probate court is a statutory probate court headed by an elected judge, The Honourable Guy Herman. Associate Judge Dan Prashner and Associate Judge Tom Ruffner also serve the probate court. In general, a request to legalize a will must be filed within four years of the date of the decedent's death. The probate court also has jurisdiction to hear claims relating to the estate of a decedent or ward, as well as actions by or against a personal representative of the estate of a decedent or ward. It is important to note that succession is a public process and that all documentation associated with the probate case becomes part of the public registry. Wills are filed with the court and therefore proven properties become a matter of public record and can be seen by all.
That means your nosy neighbor Nellie can just go to court or go online and find out about your will. To search court records, visit the Bexar County Odyssey portal. You can also contact the clerk of your probate court to ask about the availability of specific forms for your county. Checks or money orders must be made payable to Lucy Adame-Clark of the Probate Department of the Bexar County Clerk. Some older resources may refer to the Probate Code, but that information will now be found in the Probate Code. If you can't visit the Austin Library, these books may be available at a law library near you or a public library near you. The Probate Court Department serves as clerks for the four statutory probate courts in Harris County.
You shouldn't have to explain to the clerk why you want a copy of the will, since it's part of the public record. Because probate can be very complicated, you usually need to contact an attorney if you have specific questions. See the Practice Aids tab for writing guides and other professional-oriented resources.