Probate Avoidance Techniques in Texas

Probate is the process through which a court determines the validity of a person’s last will and testament. Once the court determines that a decedent’s will is valid and enforceable, the court approves the process of passing the person’s assets to his or her chosen beneficiaries. Probate can take anywhere from several months to a year (or, in some cases, it can take longer). Probate can also end up costing families significant resources, chipping away at the estate that the decedent left behind.

There is, however, good news: with the right strategies in place, you and your loved ones can avoid probate altogether. Today’s blog covers a few basic probate avoidance techniques in Texas. To find out if these strategies might work for you, contact a Houston estate planning attorney you trust.


The first, and perhaps most commonly used, probate avoidance technique is the formation of a trust. By definition, a trust is a legal arrangement where a person gives an appointed trustee the right to hold assets on his or her behalf. The creator of the trust, or the trustor, communicates to the trustee how the money should be used. Trusts can shield assets from outside influences like debtors, creditors, and probate.

Specifically, with a kind of trust called the revocable living trust, the trustor keeps control of the assets in the trust until he or she dies. At that point, a trustee takes over, and the trustee can then give the assets to the trustor’s beneficiary without having to go through probate at all.

Joint Ownership

A second strategy for avoiding probate is owning property together with another individual. Owning property jointly with a “right of survivorship” means that when you die, your co-owner has the right to continue owning the property. By owning property with your intended beneficiary, you can ensure that the property automatically passes to that beneficiary when you pass. Importantly, however, this kind of joint ownership must be formed by written agreement. You cannot orally agree to joint tenancy and expect a court to later enforce it.

Life Estate

It is also effective to use the “life estate” strategy, which gives a person the right to use property as long as he or she is alive. Once that person dies, the right to the property automatically passes to the named beneficiary. Of note, the life estate almost always keeps the property owner from selling the property without the beneficiary’s consent.

Is McCulloch & Miller the Estate Planning Firm for You?

As you consider your options for a Houston estate planning attorney, consider our legal team at McCulloch & Miller. We take our clients’ goals and priorities seriously, because we understand that with estate planning, there is a lot on the line. Our team offers thorough, experience-based representation, and we would be honored to chat with you about the details of your case. For a consultation with a Houston estate planning attorney from our firm, give us a call today at 713-903-7879. You can also fill out our online form with your contact information to have an attorney get back in touch with you as soon as possible.

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