To ensure your wishes are carried out properly after your death, it is important to have a proper estate plan in place. In Texas, numerous property laws impact estate plans. Which assets may avoid probate? How is your marital property affected?
It is important to have an experienced Texas estate planning attorney assist you with this process to make sure that your surviving loved ones do not face any additional challenges after your death.
Not All Property Passes Through Probate
Only certain types of property pass through probate. When an asset passes through probate, it goes through the court system. The court must evaluate the decedent’s will and verify that property is transferred properly to the designated heirs.
Even with a valid will, the probate process may take several months or longer before the estate may be closed and assets may be distributed.
In contrast, other types of property transfer automatically upon death. These types of property do not have to go through the probate process, which may save surviving family members a significant amount of time and money. These assets are called non-probate assets.
In Texas, there are several types of property that avoid probate.
Living trusts are a popular choice for those who wish to avoid probate. A living trust requires that the owner of the property, the grantor, designate another individual to take care of the property after one’s death. This individual is called a successor trustee.
The terms of the trust that establish how the property is to be managed are laid out in a trust document. At death, the successor trustee simply transfers the property to the designated beneficiaries.
Payable-on-death bank accounts transfer the money in a bank account, certificate of deposit, or savings account to a named beneficiary.
Texas also recognizes transfer-on-death deeds, which allow a beneficiary to receive a piece of property upon an individual’s death. Transfer-on-death deeds may be used for homes, land, and other types of real property.
If two individuals own property jointly with a right of survivorship, at one owner’s death, the property automatically transfers to the other owner, avoiding probate.
There are other arrangements that may allow property to avoid probate. Experienced probate and estate litigation attorneys are able to evaluate an individual’s assets and explain the advantages and disadvantages of different methods of transferring those assets at death.
Marital and Non-Marital Property
Texas is a community property state. This means that all property accumulated by a married couple—no matter which spouse obtains it—is the property of both spouses. There is a rebuttable presumption that all property is community property unless a spouse proves otherwise.
Separate property, in contrast, is property that belongs to one spouse only. Generally, property that is gifted to or inherited by one spouse remains that spouse’s property. In many cases, property that is purchased before the marriage is also separate property. Personal injury awards may also be separate property.
Updating Estate Plans
Although having an estate plan in place is the first step to making sure your loved ones receive the correct assets when you die, it is also important to coordinate your estate plan with non-probate asset transfers.
For example, you may wish to change a beneficiary on a payable-on-death bank account, or you may accumulate new assets that need to be noted in your will. Seasoned Texas probate administration attorneys provide valuable advice so that these changes may be made properly.
At Romano & Sumner, We Help Clients with Various Types of Estate Plans
The attorneys at Romano & Sumner are experienced in various types of estate planning and probate matters. We offer detailed guidance so that your loved ones do not face legal challenges upon your death. To schedule a free consultation with our attorneys, call 281-643-0062. We are proud to serve Sugar Land, Houston, and the surrounding area.