Probate is the legal process whereby the probate court reviews a will to determine its validity and authenticity. After determining the will is valid, the probate court oversees the division of assets to be sure the distribution is done according to the wishes of the decedent.
A Will Must be Submitted to Probate for Asset Distribution
If a person leaves a will, and it is not admitted to probate within four years of the person’s death, the state could treat the person as having died intestate, meaning without a valid will, and distribute the assets according to state law. While there are ways to probate a will after four years, to do so is more costly and the outcome is uncertain.
According to Texas law, “a will is not effective to prove title to, or the right to possession of, any property disposed of by the will until the will is admitted to probate.” A key phrase here is “property disposed of by the will…” There are other ways to “dispose of property” other than through a will.
If you made provisions for the transfer of all your property outside of a will, then there may be no need for probate after you die.
Assets That Pass to Beneficiaries Without Going Through Probate
If you plan ahead and work with an estate planning attorney, there are tools you can use so that you can leave your assets to specific people outside of a will. When you do this, the assets are transferred upon your death and there is no need for your heirs or beneficiaries to go through a lengthy and sometimes contested probate process.
Some ways to avoid probate are:
- Establishing a living trust. If all assets are transferred to the living trust before your death, probate can be avoided.
- Making bank accounts “payable on death” to a designated beneficiary.
- Owning property with another person as joint tenancy with the right of survivorship.
- Life insurance proceeds designated to the named beneficiary.
- Survivor’s benefits from annuities.
- Retirement accounts that name a beneficiary.
Contact the Reecer Law Firm PLLC for Assistance
Dena Reecer, founder and owner of the Reecer Law Firm PLLC, is one of just a few Texas attorneys who are Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Contact the firm for more information about how you can use estate planning tools so that your heirs can avoid a lengthy and costly probate process.