Specific circumstances exempt a Texas estate from formal probate. However, that does not mean heirs automatically receive the deceased’s assets. They must go through a legal process to obtain the estate’s assets.
Some assets can avoid probate entirely, even if heirs must wait for a probate judge to review and validate the will.
When Can an Estate Avoid Probate?
According to Texas Estates Code § 205.001, distributees are entitled to an estate’s assets without waiting for the court to appoint a personal representative if the deceased dies without a will and:
- It has been thirty days since the date of the death;
- A petition isn’t pending or hasn’t been granted to appoint a personal representative;
- The value of the estate, excluding homestead real estate owned by the deceased, isn’t over $75,000;
- A distributee filed an affidavit with the clerk of the court having venue and jurisdiction of the estate;
- The judge approved the affidavit; and
- The estate distributees provided copies of the affidavit to all necessary parties.
Non-Probate Assets in Texas
If you include non-probate assets in your estate, you could prevent your loved ones from enduring the probate process. Non-probate assets include:
- Assets held in trust
- Life insurance policies
- Stocks and bonds
- Property with joint ownership with a right of survivorship
- Assets with a transfer-on-death deed
- 401(k) plans
- Bank accounts with a payable-on-death beneficiary
Setting up your estate plan with the legal documents below can ensure your family avoids probate when you die.
You can include a beneficiary designation on various assets, such as life insurance plans, annuities, 401(k)s, and other financial accounts. Your beneficiaries will receive your assets after you die without going through probate. They assume ownership and can immediately access the funds.
Joint Ownership with a Right of Survivorship
If you own real estate with another person, securing a right of survivorship is beneficial. When you die, ownership will pass to the surviving owner. They don’t have to go through probate since they already have an interest in the asset. Upon your death, they will acquire your portion and can do what they want with the property.
Revocable Living Trust
A revocable living trust is a trust you manage while you’re alive. It is a valuable tool in estate planning. As the trustee, you can transfer assets in and out of the trust during your lifetime. When you die, your successor trustee can transfer all assets held in the trust to named beneficiaries according to your wishes.
Payable on Death Bank Account
A payable-on-death (POD) bank account allows the original account holder to designate a payable-on-death beneficiary. You can choose one or multiple beneficiaries and determine how much each person should receive, whether a specific amount or percentage of the funds.
The money remaining in the account will automatically transfer to your beneficiary upon death. They can use the account to pay your funeral and burial costs, medical bills, and other expenses. You safeguard your family’s finances by allowing them to use the money you set aside for necessary expenses.
Transfer on Death Deed
You can create a transfer on death deed (TOD) for all real property, such as homes, buildings, and land. You maintain ownership rights during your lifetime. You can name more than one beneficiary on the deed and modify the document anytime while you’re alive. When you die, your interest in the property transfers to your TOD beneficiary without going through probate.
Contact an Estate Planning Lawyer Today
Hargrave Law, PC has assisted clients in estate planning for over 20 years. We can review your assets and determine the appropriate methods for bypassing probate. You can count on us to help protect your interests and secure your family’s future.
Call us at 817-282-0679 or contact us online for an initial consultation with an experienced and skilled estate planning lawyer in Bedford, TX.