Patricia B. Chew, Judge

500 E. San Antonio
Suite 803
El Paso, Texas 79901
Phone (915) 546-2161
Fax (915) 875-8527
Email us

  • Probate Courts, El Paso County
  • What is a will?
  • A will is a legal declaration by which a person transfers property at death. In order to be a will a document must meet the requirements of the Texas Estates Code (formerly the Texas Probate Code). A will has no force or effect until admitted to probate by the Court.
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  • What is necessary to probate a will?
  • An attorney should offer the will to the Court with proper jurisdiction.
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  • Can I probate a matter without an attorney (Pro Se)?
  • Only a licensed attorney may represent a third person or entity in a judicial proceeding in the State of Texas. In most probate or guardianship cases, an individual applicant is not truly representing only himself, rather he or she is attempting to represent another person or persons such as beneficiaries, heirs, or the estate itself. Unless the applicant is a licensed attorney, filing an application to probate a will without an attorney constitutes the unauthorized practice of law and will not be allowed by the Court. In certain limited circumstances a person may act without an attorney. For more information please contact an attorney or one of the courts.
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  • How long do we have to probate a will?
  • Typically, an application to probate a will must be filed within four (4) years of the date of death of the decedent.
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  • What is a letter of testamentary?
  • A letter of testamentary (also known as letters testamentary) is a legal document issued by a court having probate jurisdiction after a will has been presented for probate. The letters name an individual as executor and provide the authority to administer the estate. For example, banks and other financial institutions usually require letters of testamentary and a death certificate before funds can be dispersed from a deceased personís accounts. To receive a letter of testamentary an application must be filed by an attorney. Letters of testamentary become part of a legal public record.
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  • When can we contest a will?
  • The contest can occur any time after the will is offered and up to two (2) years after the will is admitted to probate.
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  • How long must I wait after filing before my hearing?
  • Although every case is different, statutory notice is returnable the Monday following the expiration of ten (10) days. If filed on or before 12:00pm on a Thursday in any given week the earliest your hearing can occur is the Monday occurring after the lapse of ten (10) days.
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  • When does an annual account have to be filed in an administration?
  • An annual account must be filed within 60 days of the anniversary of the dependent administratorís date of qualification, which is the later of the date of filing of the dependent administratorís oath or bond.
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  • When does an annual account have to be filed in a guardianship?
  • An annual account must be filed within 60 days of the date of birth of the Ward or the date of anniversary of qualification.
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  • Does this court require an Attorney Ad Litem for an heirship determination?
  • Yes. Although the Texas Estates Code (formerly the Texas Probate Code) makes the appointment of an attorney ad litem for an heirship determination discretionary, the El Paso County Probate Courts have determined that one must be appointed in each case.
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  • Once the will is probated does the Court distribute the property?
  • No. Distribution of property is NOT handled by the court. The independent executor or administrator will distribute the property after all debts of the estate have been paid and after the estate tax return, if any, has been filed.
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  • What is a muniment of title?
  • It is a unique Texas procedure where the will is filed through a probate proceeding to transfer ownership of real estate in Texas to the beneficiaries in the will without a deed or a full probate. Sections 257.001, 257.101, 257.102, and 257.103 of the Texas Estates Code (formerly section 89C of the Texas Probate Code) addresses the probate of wills as muniments of title.
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  • Do the El Paso County Probate Courts refer cases to the El Paso County Dispute Resolution Center?
  • Yes. The El Paso County Probate Courts' Judges use the following criteria to assist in their decision to refer cases: (1) Services are available to only El Paso County residents or litigants; (2) Cases where any party is pro se are eligible for referral without limitation as to discovery level or total amount of claims; and (3) Cases under Discovery Level 1 with total claims under $50,000. The following cases are not eligible for referral: (1) Cases in which any party is represented by an attorney under a contingent fee; (2) Cases in which any party is represented by counsel retained by an insurance company or other indemnitor; and (3) Cases in which all parties are represented by retained counsel, unless the Court determines that the means of the parties are not sufficient to bear the cost of private mediation.
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  • What is the difference between real property and personal property?
  • Real property is land, including mineral interests. Personal property is anything else.
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  • Can I ask the judge a question concerning the merits of a pending judicial proceeding (Ex Parte Communications)?
  • No. Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct entitled `Performing the Duties of Judicial Office Impartially and Diligently` states that a judge shall accord to every person who has a legal interest in a proceeding, or the person's lawyer, the right to be heard according to law and that a judge shall not initiate, permit, or consider ex parte communications made to the judge outside the presence of the parties between the judge and a party, an attorney, a guardian or attorney ad litem, an alternate dispute resolution neutral, or any other court appointee concerning the merits of a pending or impending judicial proceeding. Further, a judge shall require compliance by court personnel subject to the judge's direction and control.
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  • Where can I review a file or recently filed documents?
  • At present, documents may be reviewed at the Probate Division of the El Paso County Clerkís office at 500 E. San Antonio, Suite 105, for some cases, on-line at the web site http://epcounty.com.
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  • What if we donít have money to hire a lawyer?
  • The El Paso County Probate Courts cannot offer legal advice or give you legal information. Below is a list of lawyers and/or organizations who may be able to assist you.
    El Paso Bar Association
    El Paso Probate Bar Association
    El Paso Legal Aid
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  • What can I do if I think an elderly person or a disabled person is being abused or exploited?
  • Please contact Adult Protective Services at 1-800-252-5400 and call your local police department to report the crime or call 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency.
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  • Judge, Patricia B. Chew
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  • Government Code 37.001 - 37.005
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  • Ad Litem, Mediator Rotation List
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