Definition of Probate
The term "probate" is derived from the Latin term meaning "to prove the will". Probate refers to the process where a court oversees the administration of a deceased person’s estate. The purpose of the probate process is to ensure that any final bills and expenses are paid, including any taxes owed, and any remaining assets are distributed to the beneficiaries named in a will, or if there is no will, in accordance with Texas laws governing intestate succession.
Small Estates May Not Require Probate
If the entire estate, not including homestead and exempt property, is $50,000 or less, the decedent’s assets may be transferred by affidavit procedure without having to go through the probate process, provided certain qualifications are met. Preparation of the Small Estate Affidavit poses many pitfalls, as the requirements of Probate Code Section 137 are very complex and modifications to the affidavit are required to fit the particular facts of each case. It is therefore advisable to have an attorney assist in preparing the affidavit.
Planning to Avoid Probate
The primary disadvantages of probate are the cost, time delay and lack of privacy associated with probate administration. Many clients desire to avoid probate altogether, and probate may be avoided through careful estate planning. A properly funded revocable living trust allows assets held in the name of the trust to pass to the beneficiaries named in the trust, in accordance with the provisions of the trust, without the requirement of probate administration. There are other methods of avoiding probate, such as titling assets in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, and careful use of beneficiary designations on certain types of assets. An experienced estate planning and probate attorney in Houston can explain the advantages and disadvantages of each method.
When Probate is Required, Seek Experienced Legal Representation
When probate is required, Jeannine C. Flynn offers a wealth of experience in probate administration, including the administration of large and complex estates. Serving as the personal representative of a decedent’s estate involves many fiduciary duties and responsibilities. It is important to seek the guidance and representation of an experienced Texas probate attorney. Contact Jeannine C. Flynn, Attorney at Law for a consultation.