| Read Time: 3 minutes | Probate

Losing a family member can be a difficult time in your life, especially if you have to oversee the distribution of the estate. If your deceased family member didn’t have a lot of assets, you may wonder how much an estate has to be worth to go to probate in Texas.

Most estates in Texas have to go through some type of probate regardless of the estate’s size and value. However, not all assets have to go through probate, and Texas laws have different methods that can be used for smaller estates to streamline the probate process. For example, estates valued at less than $75,000 may use a small estate affidavit instead of formal probate proceedings. No matter the estate’s value for probate, consulting with an attorney on the best method to distribute the estate properly is beneficial.  

When Does an Estate Have to Be Submitted to Probate?

Surviving family members in Texas generally have up to four years after the date their loved one passed to file a probate case. However, completing the process as soon as possible is best to ensure assets are appropriately distributed and titled in the new owner’s name. If you don’t probate the required assets within four years, the estate will be distributed by the court using the state’s intestacy laws. Distribution under intestacy laws can result in undesirable results. 

Do All Assets Have to Go Through Probate?

Not all assets have to go through the probate process. Depending on the assets in your loved one’s estate, some or all of them may be excluded from the probate estate value under Texas laws. State law excludes the following assets from having to be probated:  

  • Assets subject to a right of survivorship agreement,
  • Life insurance policies,
  • Annuities, 
  • Joint accounts at financial institutions,
  • Retirement accounts,
  • Assets in a trust, and
  • Real property transferred by a life estate deed or transfer-on-death deed.

Other accounts and assets may be excluded by law. Consulting with a knowledgeable attorney is the best way to understand how the laws apply to your loved one’s estate.

What Are Other Ways to Avoid Probate?

Thanks to the methods discussed in this section, Texas probate laws are quite friendly to surviving family members. If your family member didn’t leave a large estate behind, you may be able to shorten or avoid probate using one of the methods in this section. 

Order of No Administration

A surviving spouse can apply for an order of no administration if the estate’s value, excluding the homestead and exempt property, doesn’t exceed the amount of the family allowance the surviving spouse and dependent children are entitled to. Let’s look at the deductions before reviewing the process. 

The homestead is the deceased’s primary residence, often the most valuable part of a person’s estate. The family allowance is the amount the surviving spouse and dependent children need to afford their life expenses. The court sets this amount based on individual circumstances. Exempt property is generally personal property, such as:

  • Household pets,
  • Home furnishings,
  • Vehicles,
  • Athletic equipment, and
  • Up to two firearms.

The assets have to be included on the application along with heirs and creditors. The court will schedule a hearing after the application is filed and decide whether to grant the order of no administration at or shortly after the hearing. The assets transfer to the surviving spouse without additional probate if the order is granted.

Small Estate Affidavit

A small estate affidavit can be filed to shorten the probate process. For an estate to qualify for this process, the estate value for probate must be less than $75,000, and the deceased’s outstanding debts can’t be higher than the estate’s value. Heirs must wait at least 30 days to file a small estate affidavit, and they can’t request a personal representative to be appointed to the estate. 

Certified court copies will be mailed to all heirs and creditors if the court approves the affidavit. Ownership of the deceased’s property will be transferred to the heirs upon approval. A copy of the approved affidavit can be recorded with the county recorder to identify the new legal owners of real property. 

Contact Robbins Estate Law to Plan an Enduring Estate

The attorneys at Robbins Estate Law take pride in learning about each client’s life to customize a lasting estate plan. We understand the importance of creating a thorough plan that protects your children’s futures and provides financial security. Robbins Estate Law offers a variety of payment options. The critical question isn’t, How much does an estate have to be worth to go to probate? The question to ask is, Does my estate plan address my specific needs?

Contact us today to start your customized estate plan.

Author Photo

Kyle Robbins

Kyle Robbins is the founder and sole owner of The Law
Offices of Kyle Robbins. He received his J.D. with honors from the University of Texas School of Law and his B.S. in Food Chemistry and Microbiology from Oklahoma State University.

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