Clear And Caring Counsel
Brock Zettle Legal Team

6 strategies for avoiding probate in Texas

On Behalf of | May 10, 2024 | Probate |

Dealing with probate can be overwhelming for grieving families. The legal complexities, expenses and delays associated with probate court often add significant stress during an already difficult time.

Certain strategies can help individuals avoid probate and simplify the transfer of their estate to heirs.

1. Use a revocable living trust

A revocable living trust avoids probate by transferring ownership of assets to a trust while the grantor is still alive. The grantor names a trustee to manage the trust and appoints beneficiaries. Upon the grantor’s death, the trustee distributes the assets directly to beneficiaries without involving the probate court. The trust can be changed or revoked at any time, providing flexibility.

2. Designate beneficiaries for financial accounts

Designating beneficiaries for financial accounts is an easy and efficient way to ensure funds pass directly to heirs. For retirement accounts, such as IRAs or 401(k)s, naming beneficiaries allows the accounts to bypass probate. Transfer-on-death or payable-on-death designations can be added to checking and savings accounts as well as brokerage accounts. The institution will transfer the funds to the named beneficiary after receiving a death certificate.

3. Hold property in joint tenancy

Joint tenancy with the right of survivorship allows property to pass to the surviving owner without probate. In Texas, this option applies to real estate, bank accounts and vehicles. When one joint owner dies, the surviving owner automatically receives full ownership of the property.

4. Establish a life estate deed

A life estate deed grants ownership of a property to a designated beneficiary but allows the original owner to retain the right to live in and use the property until death. After the original owner’s death, the beneficiary automatically becomes the full owner, skipping probate.

5. Transfer ownership of vehicles and real estate

Texas allows vehicle owners to designate a beneficiary through a TOD form available at the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles. Similarly, the state allows the transfer of real estate through a TOD deed. Both methods ensure that these assets pass to heirs without the need for probate.

6. Consider Small Estate Procedures

If the estate is small, Texas offers simplified probate procedures that streamline the process. Heirs can use a small estate affidavit or a simplified probate process, but only if the estate’s value is below a certain threshold. These procedures can save time and costs for families managing smaller estates.

Using these strategies will help individuals ensure that their assets transfer smoothly to loved ones, sparing them from unnecessary costs and stress.