Dependent Probate Administration in Texas

Dependent Probate Administration

Before filing the probate application, one has to make a choice between dependent or independent probate administration.

The term “dependent administration” refers to the probate being administered by the personal representative with direct supervision by the court.  As explained below, dependent administration is an extremely restrictive method for administering an estate. This differs from “independent administration” where the court has very little involvement.

The Dependent Administrator’s Powers

With a dependent administration, the personal representative’s powers as dependent administrator are very narrow.

The dependent administrator has to obtain a court order to perform most acts that bind the estate.  For example, the dependent administrator has to obtain a court order to review any obligation owed to the estate, purchase or exchange property, take claim or property to pay debts, settle the estate’s debts, abandon worthless property, sell or transfer assets, borrow money, receive compensation for serving as the administrator, etc.

These and other restrictions on the dependent administrator’s powers are set out in several sections in the Texas Estates Code.

When is Dependent Administration Used?

Dependent administration is the default method for administering a probate estate.  It is used if the decedent’s will did not provide for independent administrator or, in the absence of a will, all of the heirs do not consent to independent administration.

Dependent administrations can be useful if:

  • The estate has more debts than assets or
  • There are likely to be disputes between the heirs or others as to distributions.

Both of these circumstances put the independent administrator in the unenviable position of having to make choices that could result in liability for the estate or the independent administrator personally.  Dependent administrations may be better in these cases, as the court order in a dependent administration may be used as a shield to protect against this type of liability.  Dependent administration may also avoid protracted litigation involving these issues.

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