Understanding Probate in Texas
When someone in Texas dies owning property, the probate process works to transfer ownership of the property to the person's surviving heirs and pay claims against the estate. After claims have been paid, if the deceased person left a valid will, the property will go to the heirs named in the will. If the person did not leave a will, the property passes to relatives according to the laws of intestacy. Either way, the Texas Probate Court has authority to oversee the administration of the deceased's estate.
What is an estate?
A person's estate includes everything the person owned at the time of death, except for items whose ownership specifically terminated upon his or her death. An example of that would be a checking account owned by a father who, during his lifetime, gave his bank written instructions to pay the balance in the account to his daughter upon his death. Property in an estate may include:
- Cash on hand or in bank accounts
- Real estate
- Stocks, bonds and other investment certificates
- Life insurance
- Retirement accounts
The administrator or executor of the estate should conduct an inventory early in the probate process and take measures to protect the property, including securing insurance if needed.
How can I avoid probate?
With careful planning, an estate of any size can be structured to avoid the probate process. Depending on the size of your estate, the benefits of avoiding probate can include significant tax savings and less attorneys' fees in the long run, as well as less hassle for your surviving heirs and greater peace of mind for you.
Since probate is necessary to transfer title to property you own at the time of death, the key to successfully avoiding probate is transferring your property to other people or to one or more trusts prior to your death. Trusts come in a variety of forms to fit your needs and may be revocable or irrevocable at your option. You can be the beneficiary of your own trust, or you can select others to benefit from your trusts.
Schedule a meeting to learn more
Every estate is different and there may be other rules or exceptions within the vast area of probate law that apply to your circumstances. The attorneys at Peterson Law Group are experienced in handling estates of all sizes and are here to assist you with the probate process. We also provide comprehensive estate planning services to help you minimize taxes and avoid probate for some or all of your assets. Contact an experienced Bryan, Texas estate planning and probate litigation attorney at Peterson Law Group. Call us today at 979-703-7014 to schedule a consultation.