After the death of a loved one, grief is often painful and overwhelming. Even the tasks of everyday life become difficult, so the thought of dealing with complex probate matters looms large. The probate attorneys at Your Legacy Legal Care empathize with your situation. We will do everything in our power to make the legal process as short and straightforward as possible so you can heal in peace. We understand that probate and estate administration isn’t just business – it’s personal. And at this time, you need experienced and compassionate legal counsel to walk you through it. At Your Legacy Legal Care, we’re that team.
Our probate attorneys have been practicing law for decades. We represent clients all over Houston and surrounding areas. Are you struggling with the probate process? Do you need help navigating the next steps or want to expedite the process? Contact us today to discuss your needs.
When is Probate Necessary?
If the deceased’s property was not jointly-owned or in a trust, the estate must go through probate for these assets to be transferred to the beneficiaries. Probate will also be necessary if there was no will or designated beneficiaries. Assets that commonly go through probate are real estate or vehicles titled solely in the deceased’s name and the portion of a property that the deceased shared with a “tenant in common.” When probate is necessary, the Executor’s job is to open the case in probate court and see it through to its conclusion. The probate court will appoint an individual to serve in that capacity if there is no will and no named Executor.
Two Kinds of Texas Probate
According to Texas law, there are two basic kinds of formal probate: independent administration of estates and dependent administration of estates.
A Houston probate attorney can help you navigate probate administration so you don’t have to go it alone.
Independent Administration of Estates
Most Texas wills instruct the named Executor to independent administration of the estate since that is the simpler, more efficient, and less expensive way to proceed. However, if there is no will, or if the existing will does not provide for independent administration, it is still possible for the Executor to petition the court for authority to act as an independent executor. In this case, however, all beneficiaries must agree.
Under Independent administration, the executor:
- Does not have to post a bond insuring the estate against losses incurred by their own careless or dishonest action
- Does not need to ask the court’s permission before paying debts, setting aside a family allowance, selling estate property, or distributing assets to beneficiaries
- Must publish notice to potential creditors and file an inventory of assets with the court
- Must collect and safeguard estate assets until it’s time to transfer them
- Is entitled to a commission of 5 percent of all estate money received and paid out (not including money distributed at the time of death)
Dependent Administration of Estates
Though not as common, the Executor or beneficiaries of the estate may request a dependent administration. This type of administration involves more court supervision of the probate procedures.
Probate Documents Needed in Houston, Texas
As your probate attorney, we will ensure you have all the necessary documents and financial information to streamline the probate process.
These documents include the following:
- Original will (Last Will and Testament) of the deceased
- All official papers regarding the deceased’s assets, investments, real estate holdings, bank accounts, and personal property
- Death certificate
- Trust agreements
- Divorce decree (if applicable)
- Retirement plan documents
Understanding that no two probate cases are identical, we are experienced with and prepared to handle all types of contingencies. Even if your loved one died without a will, we would work hard to ensure their property distribution wishes are followed while still following state and federal guidelines for probate law.
What Assets Do Not Go Through Probate in Texas?
In a well-planned estate, many assets do not have to go through probate. This is true in cases where the deceased was married and owned most assets jointly with their spouse. It is also true if trusts were created by a knowledgeable probate attorney at an estate planning law firm.
Listed below are some of the assets that do not have to go through probate:
- Retirement accounts (e.g. IRAs or 401Ks) with a named beneficiary
- Life insurance proceeds with individually named beneficiaries
- Funds in a payable-on-death (POD) bank account
- Securities registered in transfer-on-death (TOD) forms
- U.S. savings bonds registered in payable-on-death forms
- Co-owned U.S. savings bonds
- Real estate with a valid transfer-on-death deed
- Pension plan distributions
- Wages, salary, or commissions due to the deceased person
- Property held in joint tenancy with right of survivorship
- Property held as community property with right of survivorship
What is Summary Probate?
Summary probate is a shorter, less complicated, and less expensive procedure and is only possible if the estate is quite small — $75,000 or less. This amount would not include the homestead and exempt property like household furnishings, appliances, cars, and personal effects. Beneficiaries must prepare a small estate affidavit claiming rights to certain assets and file the document with the local probate court.
Seek Help From a Houston, Texas Probate Attorney
Whether you are planning your estate or need help dealing with probate after the death of a loved one, you’ll need to understand what probate is and how it may affect you and your family. A skilled and patient probate lawyer at Your Legacy Legal Care is available to explain the process and lead you through it. Please call or fill out one of our convenient website forms to connect with us.
FAQ: Houston Probate Law
How do you avoid probate in Texas?
If the deceased has had savvy legal representation, enough of their assets may be in various irrevocable or revocable living trusts that may have reduced the probate assets to the required amount ($75,000) to avoid the probate process.
Since the money that is put into a trust is no longer legally “owned” by the person who set it up, an estate worth several million dollars may be able to go through only summary probate with the help of careful planning.
How can an experienced probate attorney help?
Probate is a complex legal process, so having the expert advice of a board-certified estate planning attorney that understands Texas probate law and estate law will be beneficial. Not only will they ensure that all the probate documents and petitions are correctly filed, but they can also handle any other stressful legal legwork required throughout probate and estate administration.
What are the typical steps in the Texas probate process?
- Identifying the estate’s assets, securing them, and valuing them
- Opening probate in the deceased’s county of residence
- Identifying the deceased’s heirs if they had no will
- Informing creditors that the estate administration is underway
- Reviewing, approving and denying creditor claims
- Paying any outstanding taxes owed on the estate
- Transferring the assets that remain to the beneficiaries and heirs of the deceased’s estate