Texas Probate Avoidance: 4 Useful Tools

Probate is a necessary, but sometimes complicated process that can be costly and frustrating. In some situations, avoiding elements of probate is a welcome and convenient way of making it easier for heirs and executors of the estate to manage in a difficult time. When drafting your will, or even as you obtain assets during your lifetime, here are four things to consider doing to avoid having those assets be subject to the probate process when you die.

Designate Your Bank Accounts as Payable-on-Death (“POD”)

Accounts such as savings or certificates of deposit (CDs) can be designated as payable-on-death. Upon death, the person who is the designee —the person designated to be the beneficiary of the account—can obtain the money directly from the bank, without having to go through the probate process. The designee’s rights only kick in upon death of the owner of the account. Until that time, the person to whom the account belongs has complete control over the money and its disposition. They can change who the designee is at any time or, they can even spend all of the money leaving nothing for the designee. POD accounts should be coordinated with the overall plan of the disposition of the estate to ensure the least possible tax exposure.

Put Your Assets in a Revocable Living Trust

A living trust is a living will for your assets, so to speak,. It is used to determine the disposition of assets prior to death so that they move seamlessly—and without probate—to the intended recipient. To be effective, however, all of the assets must be transferred to the living trust prior to the person’s death with the person being the beneficiary of the trust. Assets such as real estate, cars, bank accounts, and the like can all be transferred to living trusts. The major cost and hassle of living trusts, however, is moving all of the assets into them in the first place.  

Designate Your Property Transfer-on-Death

Much like the POD account, Texas now allows property owners to sign and record a deed transferring ownership of property to a beneficiary before they die. However, the deed only takes effect when the person who is transferring the property dies. The property owner can revoke the deed or sell the property anytime before death since the property remains with the owner, not the person named as the beneficiary of the deed.

Use a Right of Survivorship

Property that is owned jointly by two or more people can be transferred to the survivor(s) without going through probate by designating a right of survivorship of the other owners (in situations where a right of survivorship is not automatic). For property that is held in joint ownership—where each owner is a joint tenant and has an equal share—the joint tenants can enter into a joint tenancy agreement that specifies the right of survivorship to the remaining tenants after one or more of the joint tenants passes away.

Competent and knowledgeable legal counsel is essential in estate planning and probate avoidance.  The Amsberry Law Firm has this knowledge and competence and is ready to assist you in your estate planning needs.  

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Written by Amsberry Law Firm

Amsberry Law Firm

Mr. Amsberry is board-certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is a proven litigator who has argued before the United States 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and earned favorable outcomes in complex, precedent-setting employment and civil rights cases. He served as a reservist assistant judge advocate general in the U.S. Army and is a sought-after lecturer and speaker on a range of legal issues.

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