Monday, December 21, 2020

What Are My Options for Avoiding Probate?

The loss of a loved one exacts a heavy toll, and is particularly overwhelming when complicated by probate, the legal process whereby a decedent’s estate is administered to a clearly written will makes it easier for probate courts to distribute assets and resolve disputes. If a person dies without a will, the probate court relies on intestate laws to determine how to distribute the decedent's estate. Probate is often both lengthy and costly, but there are options for avoiding probate.

Texas probate attorneys advise clients to be proactive and consider these four options to avoid probate in Texas:

4 Simple Ways to Avoid Probate in Texas

You will save your heirs valuable time, money, and additional heartache with a comprehensive approach to estate planning. The options outlined below will avoid probate while ensuring your assets are distributed according to your final wishes.

1. Payable-on-Death Designations for Texas Bank Accounts

Most banks offer a “payable-on-death” designation for bank accounts. When you assign a payable-on-death beneficiary, you are authorizing an ownership transfer of that account to the designated beneficiary upon your death, outside Texas probate.

It’s important to note that securities and brokerage accounts are excluded from payable-on-death designations under Texas law, and discussion with your Texas estate planning attorney regarding these types of accounts is essential.

2. Transfer-on-Death Designations

Similar to payable-on-death designations, Texas law allows you to name a transfer-on-death beneficiary for vehicles and real estate, avoiding these assets passing through probate after your death. Vehicles registered with a designated beneficiary are directly transferred to the beneficiary upon the owner’s death. Real estate deeds with a designated beneficiary also affect a direct transfer of ownership after your death, with no negative impact or risk to you during your lifetime.

3. Joint Ownership

Survivorship community property and joint tenancy are two forms of joint ownership that include a “right of survivorship” in Texas. Upon one person's passing, the jointly owned property automatically transfers to the surviving party without probate.

4. Living Trusts

Living trusts are an excellent estate planning tool and provide perhaps the most comprehensive umbrella approach to avoiding probate.

A living trust holds your assets during your lifetime and details how you intend those assets to be managed if you are incapacitated or die. Ownership of all property, including vehicles, bank accounts, investment accounts, and real estate, should be conveyed to the trust.

Generally, you will act as trustee during your lifetime and you will designate someone to execute the terms of the trust in the event you are incapacitated or deceased. Upon your death, your trustee will disperse the trust’s assets to designated heirs outside of probate and according to the terms of the trust.

How a Texas Estate Planning Can Help You Avoid Probate

The best approach to avoiding Texas probate is to assume a holistic approach to your estate plan. Understanding your estate, considering your heirs, and making provisions in the event of your death are three critical elements to protecting your legacy.

Texas estate planning attorneys understand the complexities and expense of Texas probate. In full consideration of your family particulars, a qualified estate planning lawyer will be able to guide you about how to avoid the probate process.

Contact a Texas estate planning attorney today for a personal evaluation of your estate.

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