Probate court can be an unexpected burden on loved ones after we pass. Dealing with Texas courts is an added hurdle to an already difficult grieving process. It can seem overly time-consuming and confusing to those unfamiliar with the probate process. Further, lengthy proceedings and competing claims add uncertainty to the plans you put in place for your estate.
That being said, the probate process plays a critical role in ensuring every estate is treated according to the decedent’s wishes and the law. Texas courts oversee the distribution of assets and ensure that the estate’s debts are paid and assets are ultimately sent where they belong. A clearly articulated and executed estate plan often streamlines the probate process, easing the burden on friends and family members.
An experienced Cedar Park probate lawyer can help people prepare their estate for a smooth probate process. At Robbins Estate Law, we excel at preparing estates so administrators can distribute them effectively and efficiently. Our team also has experience guiding families through the probate process and ensuring everything goes according to plan. If you or a loved one is preparing your estate or dealing with Texas probate, contact us today to schedule a consultation.
What Is a Probate Attorney?
A probate attorney is a lawyer who focuses a portion of their work on estate planning and the probate process. In Texas, probate is the formal legal process during which courts oversee the administration of an estate. During probate proceedings, courts ensure that an estate pays its creditors and distributes assets to the proper beneficiaries. Texas’s Estates Code contains the rules governing the probate process.
Probate Process Steps in Texas
Probating an estate in Texas involves several general steps that administrators or executors must follow. In many cases, an estate executor is named in a decedent’s will. When a decedent does not name an executor, an interested party can initiate probate proceedings, and the courts will name an executor. Once an executor or interested party submits a will and files for probate in county court, beneficiaries should expect the following steps to occur.
- First, the county clerk will post a public notice to announce that the estate will go through probate. The public notice gives heirs and beneficiaries a chance to challenge the will.
- Next, the court verifies the will and confirms or appoints an estate executor. Any challenges must be resolved before moving to the next step.
- After being appointed, the estate executor must inventory all assets and submit the inventory to the court.
- Once the inventory is submitted, the executor notifies all beneficiaries and creditors of the estate. Creditors are then given a chance to make claims against the estate.
- Next, the estate executor must pay all valid claims against the estate and contest any claims they believe are invalid.
- If assets remain after paying creditors, the executor then distributes assets to the estate’s beneficiaries.
- Finally, the court will hold a hearing and allow the executor to close out the estate.
When the process goes smoothly, probate can be relatively straightforward. However, if someone contests the will or disputes arise with creditors, significant time and uncertainty are added to the process. An experienced probate lawyer in Cedar Park can help guide families through probate and advocate for them.
Assets That Must Go Through Probate
Only some assets must go through probate in Texas. Exemptions exist that allow certain assets to avoid probate even without prior planning. Assets that are not exempt must go through probate. In general, assets that go through probate include:
- Personally owned real estate,
- All personal property,
- Life insurance policies without named beneficiaries,
- Solely held business interests, and
- Bank and investment accounts without named beneficiaries or joint ownership.
Exempt assets, otherwise known as non-probate assets, include:
- Assets in a trust,
- Retirement accounts with a named beneficiary,
- Life insurance policies with a named beneficiary,
- Pay on death and transfer on death accounts,
- Community property,
- Property owned as joint tenants with a right of survivorship, and
- Other jointly owned property.
Estates worth $75,000 or less in Texas can qualify for a simplified probate process through a Small Estate Affidavit.
Costs of Probate
There is a cost to probate in both time and money. Court proceedings cost the estate money and often take significant time to play out. Though predicting these costs for a specific estate is complex, some factors can affect the overall probate costs. These factors include:
- The provisions of the estate plan,
- The size of the estate,
- The type of assets the estate consists of,
- The claims any creditors have against the estate,
- The status of the will as either contested vs. uncontested, and
- How involved the courts must be during administration.
With proper planning, you can avoid or reduce probate costs.
How a Probate Attorney Can Help
An experienced probate attorney can guide estate executors and heirs through probate while advocating for their rights. Further, a skilled probate lawyer can help individuals prepare for probate through effective estate planning. An effective estate plan will reduce or eliminate many of the costs and uncertainties associated with probate.
At Robbins Estate Law, we have the experience to effectively advocate for beneficiaries during the probate process. Our estate planning team helps families craft effective estate plans that set beneficiaries up for future success. Our firm understands that estate planning is about families, not money. Schedule a consultation today.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Every Estate Need to Go Through Probate in Texas?
No. There are methods to organize an estate plan that can avoid probate entirely. One option is opting for the independent administration of your will. This reduces court oversight when executing your will. Forming a trust is another option. The best method of avoiding probate depends on the estate in question.
How Can I Avoid the Probate Process in Texas?
The best way to avoid probate in Texas is to work with an experienced estate attorney to find the best solutions to suit your needs. Contact Robbins Estate Law now and schedule a consultation.