Is next of kin entitled to notification of probate?

Dear Mr. Premack: I just recently found out that my uncle passed away in 2006. If he had a Will or anything of an estate, why would the State of Texas not have notified his next of kin? He was my dad’s oldest brother. If there was a Will is there anyway me or my siblings get to see a copy of the Will? – RSM

The Texas probate system is not set up with the state as an active participant; it all happens on the county level. When a Will is offered for probate, the county probate court takes the role of supervisor/referee. The court’s clerk posts a public notice at the courthouse, but is not required by law to issue any other notifications. After the Will has been admitted to probate, the Executor is required to send a copy to each named heir – but that has only been a legal requirement since late 2007.

Consequently, if your uncle’s Will was probated in 2006 the Executor would not have been required to send any type of notice directly to any interested party. Instead, back then, it was sufficient that the Will had become a public record which could be viewed by anyone interested enough to make an inquiry.

If he did have a Will that was probated, then it is still public record. You should visit the courthouse in the county where your uncle had resided. Ask the clerk for assistance in searching the probate records. You can then obtain a copy from the clerk.

Paul Premack is a Certified Elder Law Attorney practicing estate planning and probate law in San Antonio.

Original Publication: San Antonio Express News, October 7, 2011

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