Probate is the process of determining who is entitled to the property of a deceased person. Probate is also the process that transfers legal title of property from the estate of a deceased person to his or her proper beneficiaries. The term “probate” refers to a “proving” of the existence of a valid Will, or determining and proving who one’s legal heirs are if there is no Will (which is known as dying “intestate”). Despite often-heard rumors to the contrary, probate in Texas is nothing to be feared and often times is rather inexpensive.
Not all of a person’s property is required to go through probate. Some property must go through probate in order to transfer legal title from the deceased’s name to his or her beneficiaries or heirs. Other types of benefits, such as life insurance proceeds or annuities payable directly to a named beneficiary, bypass probate. Money from IRAs, Keoghs, and 401(k) accounts transfer automatically and outside of probate, to those named in the accounts and beneficiaries. Bank accounts set up as payable-on-death accounts (POD for short) or as joint tenancies with right of survivorship also pass to that beneficiary without probate.
Generally, even if a Will has been drafted, it is necessary to go through probate or, in the case of smaller estates, other less formal procedures that are still under the general supervision of the probate court before the deceased’s property can be legally distributed. Even if a person dies with a Will (which is known as dying “testate”), a court generally must have an opportunity to allow others to object to the Will and, if there are any objections, to determine if the Will is valid.
Please contact our attorneys to assist you with a probate: