Protect Your Family’s Estate Following the Loss of a Loved One
Many families who have recently lost a loved one have questions regarding what happens to their loved one’s assets after their death. Even with a will, there can still be complications that lead to a loss of familial property. At Theander & Grimes, our Katy probate lawyer are here to help you navigate the process and ensure you protect your family’s belongings. If you are concerned about holding onto your property, call our Katy probate firm today.
Preparing for Estate Dissolution
Every person should draft a will. Doing so will help to ensure that assets of the estate will be protected as much as possible and that your wishes are followed. Without a will, the task of dividing the assets will be determined through an expensive heirship process and distributed according to Texas law.
Non-Probate Assets or Probate Assets?
Many individuals have different categories of assets. The classification of an asset will determine how the asset is handled upon the person's death.
These assets can be loosely laid out as follows:
- These assets pass according to the terms of a pre-existing contract or other legal documents. For example, life insurance, 401ks, IRAs, trusts, and transfer on death deeds are non-probate assets and will pass according to the contract with the institution or the terms of the legal instrument. Commonly, an individual will own more non-probate assets than probate assets.
- This usually includes assets that do not already have designated beneficiaries or rights of survivorship. For example, your home and other real property will usually be transferred through a probate or heirship administration.
Traditional Probate Process
If your loved one died with a will, a probate proceeding must be undertaken in order to transfer any probate assets. There are different kinds of probate proceedings, but all of them will include nominating an executor to handle probate and receive letters of testamentary. The Court then confirms that the offered will is the last will and testament of the deceased and that the nominated executor is qualified to serve.
Types of probate include:
The executor will communicate closely with the court about incomes, expenses, receipts, and must obtain permission before liquidating the estate in any way. As there is more oversight from the court, the dependent administration feels more secure and protected.
- This kind of administration is much less costly and requires less time for oversight. All beneficiaries of the estate must unanimously agree that the executor will have greater control over the estate. That person will not have to obtain approval from the court before making decisions about how to use the assets of the estate.
Muniment of Title
- If the only probate assets were real property (i.e. land, house or mineral interests) located in Texas, a muniment of title can transfer the assets to the rightful heirs. A judge will sign an order to be filed in the real property records of counties where the deceased owned real property, after which the heirs will be able to sell or lease the property. In order to apply to probate a will as a muniment of title, the deceased must have no debts except taxes, administrative expenses, and secured debts.
How Long is the Probate Process in Texas?
The length of probate differs in every state. There are a variety of factors that determine the amount of time needed to complete the process. If you are dealing with the probate of a simple estate the process could take about six months to finish. However, if your estate is complex it could take several months.
The Texas probate process is daunting without the help of a probate attorney. Our Katy probate attorneys at Theander & Grimes, PLLC understand the process and can help guide you through. We will make sure you have a clear understanding of your options. Call us today to schedule an appointment.
If Your Loved One Died without a Will
If an individual dies in Texas without a will, Texas law determines who will inherit that individual's probate assets. The individuals who inherit from the deceased are called the deceased’s heirs.
When determining heirship, the following procedures may take place:
Affidavits of Heirship
- A legal document that sets out the information regarding the legal heirs of the deceased. This document often needs to be signed by two individuals under oath who will not inherit anything from the deceased. Affidavits of heirship can be a cost-effective alternative to heirship used by title companies to clear title to real property.
Small Estate Affidavit
- This can be used to transfer title to the property when a loved one dies without a will and the deceased does not have more than $75,000 in assets (aside from their home). In this case, an affidavit signed by two individuals who will not inherit anything along all of the deceased’s heirs can be signed under oath, filed with the court and approved by the judge.
- If none of the proceedings above will suffice, an application to appoint an administrator and to determine the decedent’s heirs will need to be filed. As part of this proceeding, the court appoints an attorney ad litem who will conduct an investigation to determine the deceased heirs. The court will appoint an administrator and issue letters of administration. The administrator will be responsible for administering the deceased’s estate in a very similar role to an executor.
If you are looking for ways to avoid probate in Texas – either to benefit your loved ones or to avoid paying court-related expenses – you do have some options available to do so. With the help of an experienced Katy probate lawyer, you can go over several considerations that might allow you to avoid probate.
Ways to Avoid Probate:
- With a relative or partner, you can establish parts of your estate, especially businesses, as part of a joint ownership. When you pass, they will assume full ownership.
If you want to avoid probate you can create a living trust. Living trusts allow you to assign ownership directly to a trustee upon your passing. That trustee can then distribute the property to appropriate parties without probate.
Bank accounts and retirement funds can be immediately transferred to a chosen beneficiary through these means, rather than being collected in your probate estate.
Gifts & Donations
You might be able to avoid probate if you simply donate or gift your valuable assets before your passing.
Trusted Probate Attorneys in Katy Serving Harris & Fort Bend County
Contact us to assist in determining which proceeding is the best for your needs. Call your local Katy probate attorneys, Theander & Grimes to schedule a consultation. Our team takes cases in Harris, Fort Bend, Austin, Waller, and Montgomery Counties.
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