One of the major concerns with the Texas probate system has been that the Probate Code requires the filing of a “verified, full and detailed inventory” of all estate property within 90 days after the estate representativeâ€™s qualification. Once an inventory is filed, it becomes a public document, and the whole world then gets to see how much Mom left her children, and which kid got what – making public what should be private family business, and exposing the kids to unwanted attention from con men, identity thieves, and others all too willing to share the inheritance. Not surprisingly, this has led to many elaborate efforts to avoid probate.
During the 2011 legislative session, the Texas Legislature finally addressed this problem with a significant amendment to the Texas Probate Code. Effective September 1, 2011, an independent estate representative (as opposed to a dependent, or Court appointed representative), can simply file an affidavit in lieu of an inventory, as long as no debts remain unpaid as of the date the inventory is due. The inventory is due 90 days from the date the representative qualifies, which allows enough time to pay the decedentâ€™s debts in most cases. The beneficiaries are still protected, because the representative must still prepare a sworn inventory and provide a copy to all beneficiaries, except those receiving specific gifts. However, the inventory in this instance is private, and shielded from public view. This is a welcome revision, because it simplifies the probate process and insures privacy for the estate and the decedentâ€™s heirs. It should also give the public more confidence in the Texas probate system.