The estate planning process can be complicated for those just beginning since there is a lot to learn. Because of this, most people do not know how probate can impact estate planning overall. Probate is the court administration of an individual’s estate—which occurs after they have passed away. Depending on the amount of planning an individual has done before they die, the probate process may either be smooth or difficult. Below are some common questions and explanations about the probate process and how Texas estate planning attorneys advise their clients on these issues.
What is Probate?
After a person’s death, the court reviews the deceased’s debts in probate—if they had any—and then distributes their remaining assets to loved ones. Most people are surprised that regardless of if the person had a will or not, they will go through the probate process. If the person had a will in place, called a testate, then the process is much easier and is less likely to be questioned. However, if the person did not have a will, called intestate, the process is often much more complicated. This is another reason why it is critical to have an estate plan in place.
What Is It Like Going Through The Texas Probate Process?
If a person has an estate plan, their executor will file for probate after they pass away. Then a probate judge will review the estate plan. If the person has no debts—and as long as there are no deficiencies in the plan—then the judge will validate the will and ensure the assets are distributed to the intended beneficiaries. However, if the person did not have an estate plan in place, then the judge will only distribute the individual’s assets to their closest relatives, according to Texas law. The deceased’s intentions will not matter if they die without a valid will.
Attorney David Miller discusses the Texas Probate Process:
What Assets Can Pass Without Probate?
While most assets are handled through probate, there are a few that are not subject to probate or can be arranged to avoid probate altogether. Joint-owned accounts with a right of survivorship—meaning the non-deceased individual retains control over the account—are not part of probate. These include both financial and securities accounts. Additionally, assets placed in a revocable trust are not distributed through probate and instead are administered through the terms of the trust. Finally, life insurance is paid out directly to beneficiaries and is not part of probate either. Besides these assets, all others are managed through probate in Texas.
Probate does not need to be confusing and stressful. Individuals who are creating a will should contact an experienced estate planning attorney to discuss this process.
Contact a Houston Estate Planning Attorney
If you or a loved one needs assistance drafting an estate plan, contact the Houston estate planning and probate attorneys at McCulloch & Miller, PLLC. We work with your loved ones to navigate the probate process and will advise you beforehand on how your estate plan can minimize the potential future difficulties. With decades of experience, our attorneys will reduce your stress and make sure you are prepared for the future. To schedule a free, initial consultation and to speak with one of our attorneys, give us a call today at 713-333-8900.