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What is a Dependent Administration?

“Dependent Administration” words which sometimes send a chill down the spine of an administrator who pictures himself or herself trudging a weary path to the courthouse steps (and even a wearier path to the pawnshops, to determine which estate assets should be sold to pay the mounting legal costs). Many imagine a humming estate lawyer browsing a brochure of the latest yacht models (in anticipation of a fat fee). If you are reading this because an attorney just told you that you will need a dependent administration, dry those eyes! It isn’t usually that bad.

On the other hand, if you are reading this because you have heard that dependent administrations are bad news, and you do not want your heirs to have to deal with one, and you are also looking for the best way to avoid it, then you are in luck. A dependent administration is usually easy to avoid. Clearly the easiest advoidance measure is to have a Texas attorney draft your will. Over 90 percent of dependent administrations occur based on two circumstances: 1) there was no will; or, 2) the decedent tried to save a few hundred dollars and used a will that was not drafted by a Texas attorney. There are few, if any, Texas attorneys who could not at least avoid this pitfall for you–nevertheless, I have seen but a few do-it-yourself wills that could.

But I don’t want to dodge the question. A dependent administration is the probate procedure that you ocassionally hear about on the radio, striking fear into the hearts of retired and elderly everwhere. A dependent administration is a type of probate proceeding wherein the Court oversees every aspect of an estate. In most cases this means that the executor or administrator must post a bond, hire appraisers, submit an annual inventory, petition the Court for permission to sell any property or distribute any assets, and file a final report with the Court. If you do not trust any of your heirs to honor your final wishes, you may even want to require a dependent administration. I have successfully petitioned the Court to require one where there was a high level of distrust between the heirs and evidence of bad faith. However, if you do have someone you trust as your executor, you will want to allow them to be an indendent administrator, which will minimize the time and expense of probating your will after your death.

There is no way to tell you exactly how much a dependent administration will cost, as much depends on the amount of work involved. If the estate’s assets are all pretty “liquid” (easily exchanged for cash), it is sometimes not that bad at all. If multiple motions and hearings and accountings are required, and one of the other heirs is distrustful or actively fighting the administrator, it can cost a substancial portion of the estate. Of course, you have the protection of the Court needing to approve the attorney’s fees. But you have to pay for the attorney’s time in getting the same court approval, so it is a bit of a two edged sword.

Finally, a great way to avoid a dependent administration is to have all the heirs agree on an independent administration, and agree on who should be appointed.

If you have any questions regarding this, or any other legal matter, please contact my office at 936-435-1908 or 281-723-2791 to schedule an appointment. Visiting or reviewing this blog does not creat an attorney- client relationship. Information found here should not be considered legal advice.

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