The Relationship Between Estranged Beneficiaries & Dependent Administration

Estranged beneficiaries are people named in a will but may no longer have a relationship with the person who created it. There are scenarios in which people may have fallen out with their children, and their relationship has been fractured. Regardless of the circumstances, there are times when someone may leave a child entirely out of their plan. Though we will elaborate on some of how this can impact the probate process in a moment, it is essential to remember that these children may also challenge the will’s validity. Additionally, they may contact an attorney and contest the fact they have been excluded from receiving any portion of the estate. 

When A Person Cannot Be Located

After a significant disagreement, people may go years without talking to or seeing one another. Despite this, a parent may still include their child in their estate plan without informing them. When a person is named in a will but cannot be found, the probate courts typically require the personal representative to make “reasonable efforts” to locate the person. It is highly advisable for anyone named as a personal representative of an estate to have legal counsel assist them, which is an excellent reason why. For example, they could ask their attorney what they have to find the missing person. 

  • Publishing notifications in newspapers
  • Submitting a determination of heirship through the probate court
  • Appointing an attorney ad litem to find the heirs 
  • Hiring a private investigator to search for the heirs

After conducting a thorough search, the probate court may allow the personal representative to continue with the probate process despite being unable to locate the missing person. However, when you don’t have everyone in front of the court, you may lose the ability to have an independent administration. 

What Is Independent Administration?

Independent administration can be quicker and will likely cost less than dependent administration. The reason for both is that a personal representative can skip court approval for each step with independent administration. This is common when the estate is relatively small or straightforward, the heirs are not contesting the will, and they are not immersed in disagreement. This will be the default in Texas unless the will requests dependent administration. 

When someone cannot be located or an estranged heir challenges the will, this will become a court-supervised process known as dependent administration. Because of how involved the court will be, this will come alongside increased costs and time considerations. 

Speak with an Attorney at Fraser, Wilson, & Bryan, P.C.Remember that wills transfer your assets to the beneficiaries you determine at your death. They are only one component of an effective and complete plan. Regarding your assets, if you choose to exclude someone from your will, we can discuss the ramifications. If you are ready to speak with an attorney about your estate plan, contact our office today to schedule your free consultation