Why can't I probate a will on my own?

Posted by David Armstrong | Apr 22, 2022 | 0 Comments

If I'm executor, why can't I probate a will without an attorney?  

A person who represents him or herself in court, without an attorney, is called ‘pro-se'.   This can be done in most kinds of cases.   But what about a probate case, admitting a will, administering an estate, etc….?  Is it possible to do that on your own without hiring an attorney?  

Understandably, these questions and this desire are important for many people in an effort to save money.  

Even if legally possible, representing yourself is probably not the best choice.   Courts often frown on having pro-se parties in hard cases, and especially trying to navigate a probate case.   There are numerous rules and requirements that are not necessarily easy to find or follow.   Even choosing what type of probate to file (e.g. full probate and administration, probate as a muniment of title only, small estate…) is a decision better made with the advice and expertise of an experienced attorney.  

Additionally, and more importantly, a non-attorney may not represent someone else in a court case.   Except in limited circumstances, probate involves representing someone else.   For a normal case, involving admitting a will to probate, appointing an executor, and administering an estate, the executor is representing the interests of the beneficiaries and the creditors. 

About the only time that a pro-se party may be legally able to handle the entire action without an attorney is to probate a will as muniment of title when you are the only beneficiary—and the muniment of title action is only available when there are no debts against the estate other than those against real estate secured by liens. 

Having said the above, you can still save money in a probate matter.  Talk with your attorney about your responsibilities in the case as executor and plan to take on as much of the legwork as is possible throughout the administration. 

About the Author

David Armstrong

J.D. University of Houston, 1995


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