A will is not effective until probated.

More than once I have had clients come to me years after a loved one has died claiming rights under a will. Unfortunately, the will was never admitted to probate and I have the unpleasant task of explaining the result.

Texas law requires you to produce a will in your possession after the decedent dies. You don’t have to hire the lawyer to probate it; you can simply present it to the county clerk and wash your hands of the matter if you like. If you fail or refuse to offer up the will, however, some bad things can happen.

You can lose your right to offer the will for probate after four years from the decedent’s death. That means that the real estate you thought Uncle Joe left you is owned by his heirs because he is considered to have died intestate. If you hide a will (maybe because it didn’t leave you anything) you can be sued and/or prosecuted.