Father passed with no will. He owns some land, has a home and land with a balance owed. Owns a truck and has cash in the bank. In addition, he has property in the home worth some money. We do not believe he filed taxes for the past several years while working for himself. How do we find out what he owes? What part is considered his estate? What can we sell without breaking the law or being responsible for his unpaid taxes/penalties?
You do need to speak with an attorney and provide the details relating to your father's property and the attorney can advise you as to his heirs at law pursuant to Texas law. You can then determine whether an administration is necessary or perhaps another, less-restrictive method can be used. For example, the outcome and procedures could be different depending on whether he was married when he died and the type of property he owned. You and the attorney will need to determine what is in his estate and what debts or claims may exist against the estate and the attorney can advise you as to the proper way to notify potential creditors and the deadline they would have to present a claim.
There are several issues contained within your question, and the safest route is to consult with a probate attorney here in the Houston area as soon as possible to discuss the different ways your father's estate can be wound up, and the potential liability for debts or other claims against the estate, including taxes.
What a mess. First, you need to establish an estate to administer his assets. You need to retain an experienced estate/probate attorney to assist you since you have multiple problems. The attorney can assist in getting a close family member named as an adminstrator for the estate. Once an estate is set up the administrator must protect all its assets, pay all its debts, make sure all taxes have been paid. Nothing should be sold until the estate is established and the situation is reviewed with the attorney you retain.
As for the taxes, you need to find his books and records and statements of accounts to attempt to reconstruct his income for the years in question. You may need to retain a forensic accountant to retrace and reconstruct all open tax years. Only upon resolution of all of these issues and payment of all taxes and debts can amounts be distributed to family members in accordance with TX intestate laws of succession. Stop what you are doing and immediately hire an experienced estates attorney to assist you, otherwise you are looking for big problems.
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Mr. Fromm is licensed to practice law in PA with offices in Philadelphia and Montgomery Counties and services clients in all parts of Pennsylvania. He can be reached at 215-735-2336 or at the email address listed below. He has received a 10.0 rating from AVVO and recently was featured as a 5Star Wealth Manager in the Philadelphia Magazine, November 2009 issue on page 123.
Mr. Fromm is ethically required to state that the response herein is not legal advice and does not create an attorney/ client relationship. Also, there are no recognized legal specialties under Pennsylvania law. Any references to a trust, estate or tax lawyer refer only to the fact that Mr. Fromm limits his practice to these areas of the law. These responses are only in the form of legal education and are intended to only provide general information about the matter within the question. Oftentimes the question does not include significant and important facts and timelines that if known could significantly change the reply or make such reply unsuitable. Mr. Fromm strongly advises the questioner to confer with an attorney in their state in order to ensure proper advice is received.
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