Serving as executor of an estate is both an honor and a significant undertaking, as it usually requires at least one court hearing, and what can be major work to value, distribute, and sometimes sell estate property as directed by a will and the law.
If you have an original will that has not yet been admitted to probate and you see that you are appointed executor in that will, the first thing you should do is contact a probate attorney who can file the will with the appropriate county. Texas law requires an executor to be represented by an attorney. Although this requirement might seem unfair, it often protects the estate beneficiaries from an executor who acts inappropriately or just doesn’t know the law.
In preparation to meet with your probate attorney, gather information that will be helpful, such as:
• Contact information for beneficiaries named in the will
• Bank statements for accounts that need to be transferred or accessed
• General information about personal property, such as whether there are any particular items of value
• Information about vehicles, including make, model, year, and VIN.
There are circumstances where an individual has carefully planned his or her estate, and it might not be necessary to probate the will in court. However, even if you and your probate attorney determine that the probate process is not necessary, you or your probate attorney should immediately deposit the will with the county clerk in the county that has jurisdiction over the matter (usually the county where the person resided at the time he or she passed away). Texas law requires someone who has the original will to deposit the will with the county, with severe penalties for those who fail to comply.
You can legally take very limited action with the property of the person who passed away until a court appoints you as independent executor. Under no circumstances should you give any property away or otherwise dispose of it. You should secure the property and lock the house. If you suspect someone might be using a bank account inappropriately, you should notify the bank of the death and give the bank a copy of the death certificate, so the bank can place a hold on the account, if possible. If you think any estate assets are subject to immediate harm, notify your probate attorney immediately.