When a Texas resident passes away, their estate goes through the probate process even if they left a last will and testament. Probate is a legal process that supervises the administration of the estate, makes sure that the wishes of the decedent are given all due consideration and deals with any questions concerning the validity of the will, and it can last for weeks, months or even years when the estate involved is a complex one and the will is contested.

The purpose of a will

Writing a will allows individuals to express how they would like their assets to be distributed after they die. The probate process ensures that other interested parties, such as creditors, are heard, and it cannot be avoided if the decedent owned property in their name at the time of their passing. If the decedent died without a will, the probate court appoints an administrator to pay creditors, distribute assets according to state law and designate guardians for minor children. The ownership of certain assets, such as jointly held real estate and insurance or retirement funds with designated beneficiaries, can be transferred outside probate.

The probate process

The probate process begins as soon as a death certificate is filed and a case number is assigned. During the process, the estate’s executor or court-appointed administrator compiles a list of the estate’s assets, pays any outstanding claims and taxes, places minor children in the care of guardians and distributes assets according to the provisions of the will or state law. The probate court ensures that all of this is done properly and settles any disputes regarding the legitimacy of the will or any of its provisions.

Avoiding probate

If you would like to have more control over how your estate will be administered and your assets distributed, an attorney with estate planning experience could suggest that you consider placing your assets in irrevocable trusts. When assets are owned by a trust rather than an individual, probate can be avoided. Using trusts could also allow you to exercise more control over when and how your assets are distributed and may provide you with tax benefits.