Probate in Texas – the process which transfers your assets to your heirs – is expensive, lengthy, and often baffling, but a Texas probate attorney can prepare a revocable trust that avoids probate and ensures that your heirs receive their inheritance in a swift and less costly manner.
What happens in a probate proceeding? How will a Texas probate lawyer assist you, and when should you contact that lawyer? If you’ll continue reading, these questions will be answered, and you’ll also find out more about your options for estate planning.
The probate process inventories and then evaluates an estate’s properties and assets, satisfies the estate’s remaining debts and taxes, and transfers the remaining properties and assets as directed by the decedent’s will (or as directed by Texas state law if there is no will).
What Makes Avoiding Probate So Important?
The more you have, the more your heirs could lose in probate. The two best reasons for avoiding probate are the time it takes and the cost to your estate. Probate can tie up estates for months, sometimes for over a year, and the costs of probate can significantly lessen your estate’s value.
If a decedent owned properties in more than one state, probate can get much more complicated. For instance, if a decedent was a resident of Austin or Houston but also owned a house or a condominium in West Palm Beach, that property will be probated in the State of Florida.
Privacy may be another reason you should avoid the process. Probate is a judicial proceeding, so the details are a part of the “public record.” Anyone can find out what your heirs have inherited, so the probate process is to be avoided if your privacy – and your family’s – is a priority for you.
What Happens in Probate?
Probate is almost entirely paperwork. In many probate proceedings, there is nothing to dispute, so a probate attorney’s courtroom skills are seldom required. Instead, a Texas probate attorney completes paperwork, meets deadlines, and meets a variety of additional probate requirements.
In the probate process, the decedent’s estate pays executor’s fees, probate attorneys’ fees, court costs, appraiser’s fees, and other probate expenses. Probate court, however, isn’t unavoidable. One way that your estate can entirely avoid probate is if you establish a revocable trust.
What Is a Revocable Trust?
Setting up a revocable trust (also called a “living” trust) is one way to attempt to keep your estate out of probate court. A Texas probate lawyer can prepare the revocable trusts that meet the needs of most estates, families, and individuals.
For the purposes of probate, the assets and properties that you move into your revocable trust are no longer legally “yours” but instead legally belong to the trust. After your death, your trustee may transfer your properties and assets quickly to your loved ones without legal interference.
A revocable trust is similar to a will. In each document, you name the heirs who will inherit your property and assets, but revocable trusts do more. Revocable trusts may include your directions for medical treatment and name a trustee to handle your finances if you’re incapacitated.
Upon your death, a revocable trust transfers assets and properties to your heirs, but unlike a last will and testament, a revocable trust will help you keep property holdings, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and other assets from being subject to probate.
What Else Should You Know About Revocable Trusts?
You may amend or rescind a revocable trust at any time and for any reason you choose. If you’ve established a revocable trust but you have not reviewed or updated it in several years, or if the trust was established in a state other than Texas, it may need to be revised.
A trust lawyer can review your revocable trust or set up a revocable trust that benefits and protects you and your loved ones and provides you with peace of mind.
A revocable trust may not be your only option for avoiding probate. A trust attorney can review your situation to determine if other options are available to you.
Should You Have a Comprehensive Estate Plan?
Whether you prepare a last will and testament or set up a revocable or irrevocable trust, that document alone may not be enough to offer full protection to your estate and your loved ones. Let a Texas trust lawyer help you create a comprehensive estate plan.
Your estate plan should fully account for your financial, family, and personal circumstances. Your plan may include your will or trust, a financial power of attorney, and an advance healthcare directive. If you choose, your estate plan may also include:
- a “testamentary” trust that leaves assets to a minor, but in the care of a trustee, until the minor reaches a designated age, usually 18, 21, or 25
- a special needs trust – if you have a child or another loved one with special needs – that will provide for that person after you’re gone
- a charitable remainder trust, especially if you have no spouse or children and you would like to leave your estate to a charity
- a sub-trust inside of a revocable living trust which springs to life upon a certain event, which typically occurs upon the death of the 1st spouse and/or the 2nd spouse.
These are only a few of your many estate planning options. A good estate planning attorney will provide you with a detailed explanation of the full range of your options and will help you set up the estate plan that meets your needs and offers maximum protection to your estate.
Do You Really Need an Attorney’s Help?
Why should you consult an estate planning attorney when blank trust forms and other estate planning forms are easy to download for free? Because establishing a trust and planning an estate are difficult and risky tasks, and a mistake could cost you dearly.
An estate planning lawyer will be able to offer you important estate planning advice and insights that you may not have considered. Too many of us wait until we are forced by circumstances or by an emergency to set up an estate plan, but hasty estate planning is never a good idea.
Whatever your circumstances are, you can learn more and obtain sound estate planning advice by scheduling a consultation promptly with a Texas estate planning attorney. No one knows what tomorrow may bring, so the time to set up a trust or a comprehensive estate plan is today.