The probate process involves many logistical hurdles that often require time and money, and it can be frustrating for those individuals a decedent leaves behind. It is important to recognize, however, that not all assets must go through probate – in fact, there are some assets that are automatically exempt from the process altogether. At McCulloch & Miller, we specialize in separating these two kinds of assets so that families do not have to unnecessarily go through a process that will drain their resources during an already difficult time.
Put simply, probate assets are those that are governed by the terms of a will. All real property and assets are subject to probate unless they fall under a category that allows them to be exempt from the process. So, for example, if a decedent had a home, a piece of land, or money kept in a non-exempt bank account, those assets will have to go through probate. The probate court learns of the individual’s death, makes sure all potential beneficiaries have received notice of the death, then divides the assets accordingly. This process can take anywhere from a couple of months to a couple of years.
The following assets avoid probate automatically, just by the nature of the way they are organized:
- Trust assets: in the past, we have reviewed different kinds of trusts on our blog, and exempting assets from probate is another benefit to putting money or property into a trust.
- Property owned in joint tenancy with a right of survivorship: when a piece of property is owned jointly with a right of survivorship, it means that multiple individuals own the property together and that when one person dies, the others automatically own the property. This kind of property, therefore, avoids any kind of probate litigation.
- Insurance policies: life insurance policies, for example, allow a decedent to pass proceeds to a beneficiary as soon as that person dies.
- Transfer-on-death accounts: certain kinds of bank accounts can be designated to transfer to another person the moment the account owner dies. These kinds of accounts, however, have to be designated as “transfer-on-death” before the owner dies.
These are only a few non-probate assets – there are others, and it can be a complicated process figuring out how to divide and specify which property goes through probate and which avoids it altogether. For more information, contact an experienced estate planning or probate attorney that can explain these options based on your individualized priorities and needs.
Do You Have a Probate Attorney in Texas?
At McCulloch & Miller, PLLC, we believe early planning is the key to successful estate planning. Our clients in Texas trust us with their most important needs because they know that we have their best interests in mind. If you are looking for legal advice from an experienced Houston probate and estate planning attorney to help you through the probate process, give us a call today for a consultation at 713-597-7176. You can also fill out our online form to tell us about your circumstances.