A Brief Overview Of Probating Estates In Texas

Probating an estate, after the death of a loved one, is an important step to moving on.

When many Texans think of probate, they envision a long, arduous process that costs the surviving family members more than their loved one's estate is worth. However, probating an estate is Texas is not as difficult or as complicated as one might think, and the legal process helps families avoid disputes, which can often plague estate distributions.

When is probate needed?

Probating an estate is generally necessary when a person who owns property dies. The process usually includes:

  • Determining what assets and debts the decedent - the person who passed away - had at the time of death
  • Ascertaining who the heirs are
  • Paying expenses, taxes and debts of the decedent and the estate
  • Distributing the estate assets to heirs

There are a number of assets that may be distributed without going through the probate process, such as the following:

  • Life insurance proceeds
  • Retirement plan accounts
  • Certain types of jointly-held property
  • Bank accounts with pay-on-death provisions
  • Survivor benefits from annuities

However, skipping or avoiding the probate process can create a number of legal issues among heirs, creditors, debtors and the IRS. Additionally, probate is often necessary to obtain clear title to real estate so that it may be sold, refinanced or otherwise transferred.

For example, an elderly woman dies, leaving her lake cabin jointly to her three adult nieces. For a number of years, they take turns using the vacation property but, as time goes on, they all become too old to maintain the property. When the three of them die, the title to the property is still in the name of their deceased aunt and the children of the nieces must now go through the laborious process of obtaining clear title.

A lawyer can help

In order to ensure that a loved one's estate is probated properly, or if you have questions about estates or the probate process, consult an experienced estate planning attorney. A Texas lawyer experienced with all aspects of this area of law can help during one of the most difficult times of your life.

Keywords: probate, estate planning, probate administration