Travis County Discusses Second Probate Court, Legislative Assistance Needed

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Travis County commissioners are expected to begin deliberations Tuesday on whether the county will file proposed legislation to create a new probate court.

“Probate courts in Texas really do two things: they deal with the estate of deceased people,” said probate attorney Dick Brown. “Another thing the probate courts do is to try the cases of incompetent people.”

There is currently only one probate court in Travis County, a spokesman said, unlike counties like Bexar and Harris, which have at least two.

During the trial on Tuesday, members of the commission are expected to vote on whether to publish a notice of intent on the matter. This is the first procedural step in the process and does not mean that the county must or will file the proposed law.

“Because state law requires a 30-day notice when a county wants to create a new probate court, we wanted to get ahead of the game,” said Hector Nieto, Travis County Public Information Director. “Currently, discussions are possible regarding the addition of a probate court, but this will depend on the decision of the court of commissioners.”

Going forward, an overwhelming majority of the body’s members (in this case at least four members) will have to vote to send the legislative proposal to the legislature, which convenes for the 88th legislative session on Tuesday. The session lasts 140 days.

“Right now, Travis County is the only major urban county that doesn’t have a second probate court,” Nieto said. “Since there’s obviously growth going on here in Travis County, it’s time for us to at least start exploring the opportunity.”

Brown of Brown, Lacallade and Lange says the Travis County succession process is fairly straightforward now, but a second probate court is long overdue.

“Usually we can get a hearing in Travis County within a month, I remember when you could easily get it within two weeks, but times change, the county has grown,” Brown said.

This will save the county from future delays when it comes to urgent matters that will eventually go to court, such as appointing an executor to access someone’s monetary assets.

“Funerals need to be arranged, funerals are not cheap, and sometimes there is no family member available to provide cash or a credit card to pay for the funeral,” Brown said.

This item is expected to be returned to the Commissioners later this month so they can hear from the judges and decide how to proceed, if at all.

“There is a lot more work to be done before this is considered,” Nieto said.

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