Probate…When a Will Is Not Enough

Death and taxes are great equalizers. Each of us, no matter age, race, gender or socio-economic status, encounters death and pays taxes. But, who knew dying could be so complicated? There are many misconceptions regarding the steps needed to secure a prosperous future for yourself and your heirs. One wide-spread misnomer is that having a last will and testament avoids the probate process; yet the court system is full of will-based probate cases. How is this possible?

Let’s explore a few common questions surrounding the creation and implementation of a last will and testament.

Q: What is a will?

A: A will is typically a type-written document that has to be witnessed by at least two disinterested individuals and signed in front of a Notary Public. It contains information explaining what you want to happen to your things after you are no longer here.

Q: Does a last will and testament allow my heirs to avoid probate proceedings?

A: No. Probate is required if your estate is worth more than $75,000. Before your heirs can inherit assets left to them, an application for probate must be filed in the probate court in the county in which you passed away. Usually, a probate application must be filed within 4 years of your passing.

Q:   What are the steps to probate a will in Texas?  

A: Fulfilling your last wishes set forth in your will requires your executor to complete an 8-step process.

  1. Filing with the court
  2. Posting notice
  3. Validating the will
  4. Inventory of assets
  5. Identifying beneficiaries
  6. Notifying creditors
  7. Resolution of disputes
  8. Distribution of assets

This process can be quite lengthy and costly; taking anywhere from 6 months to multiple years depending on the complexity of your estate.

Q:   How much does the probate process cost?  

A: Each probate situation differs in total costs incurred, but the types of costs sustained are the same across the board. Costs such as court fees, attorney fees, accounting fees, appraisal fees, and other miscellaneous charges must all be paid prior to the distribution of assets.

Q:   Does my estate have to hire an attorney to go through the probate process?

A: Most of the time, yes. Texas courts usually require an executor to be represented by an attorney in a probate matter because an executor not only represents himself, but also the interest of beneficiaries and creditors.

Q: What options are available to avoid probate proceedings?

A: One common way to avoid probate proceedings and allow your last wishes to be carried out without delay is to create a revocable living trust.

Q: What is a revocable living trust?

A: A revocable living trust directs the administration of assets during your life and directs the disposition of your estate at the time of your death, allowing trust beneficiaries to receive assets without court interference.

Have you found yourself being given the honor of being the executor of a will and are now mired in the probate process? Our firm focuses solely on estate planning, including, helping you navigate the bureaucratic and perplexing world of probate court. Schedule your free consultation to learn how we can assist you in executing your responsibilities as well as how to ensure your loved ones avoid probate when you pass away.