Estate Probate Attorney Serving McKinney & All Collin County
Organizing a loved one’s affairs after they pass away can be challenging. Probate – the legal process of authenticating a will, administering the estate plan that was created earlier, then distributing its assets – is one of the tasks where it is helpful to have a probate attorney by your side. At Lucé Law, PC, we offer probate advice and representation to ensure the smooth transfer of estate assets. From administrative responsibilities to probate litigation proceedings, we can support you in difficult times.
The very basic definition of probate is the process of distributing the estate of someone who has passed to their descendants. The probate process in Texas is a complex area of the law. If you are going through probate, it is crucial that you hire an experienced probate attorney. It is a misconception that probate must always be a long, drawn-out, expensive process. The probate system is intended to help heirs and beneficiaries gain clear title to assets as quickly as possible, and to prevent false claims against the decedent’s estate. Many banks and other institutions will not release funds and assets to the heirs of the decedent account owner without a probate order protecting them from liability.
Texas also offers a simplified probate process, along with a broad range of options for settling a decedent’s estate. Nearly 80 percent of Texas probate cases are handled through independent administration, which requires filing an inventory of assets and only one court hearing. Probate through independent administration can usually be completed in less than three months if the will is properly drafted – and explicitly specifies independent administration. In contrast, when a person dies without a will (intestate), one of the most burdensome forms of probate may be required. This is known as court-supervised dependent administration. In this process, the estate administrator can take little action without the express approval of the court.
Our Experienced Attorneys Can Help Probate the Will
As experienced Texas probate attorneys, we are prepared to handle probate issues ranging from routine probate to complicated fiduciary litigation. There are six different ways to probate a will, and many more methods when a person dies without a will. We always look for the most simple and economical method to meet your family’s needs. Occasionally, wills are contested – and at Lucé Law, PC, we are experienced in handling contested wills in the courts.
Our probate attorneys take special care to represent families with caring and compassionate counsel, guidance and direction during these difficult times. As we are aware of the added frustration that legal proceedings can bring to an already stressful time, we strive to complete the process quickly while respecting your expressed goals. Experience enables us to guide you confidently through the transition process and help you address the future.
These Are Considered Non-Probate Assets
When you are looking at putting together an estate plan, you may notice that some assets can be considered “non-probate assets.” But what does that mean? Simply, upon your death some assets can transfer directly to your heirs and do not need to go through the probate process. There are different types of non-probate assets, including:
- Payable on Death (POD) assets
- Health Savings Accounts
- Beneficiary Deeds
- Property Owned as Joint Tenants with Right of Survivorship
- Property Owned as Tenants by the Entirety
- Assets in a Living Trust
- Life Insurance Policies
If the estate has any of the above, these assets will not have to go through the court system.
The Most Common Estate Disputes
When money or property is involved, the stress and sadness of losing a loved one can quickly be accompanied by bitterness and turmoil. The most common estate disputes begin with the documentation itself. Family members may accuse each other of undue influence, of coercion or manipulation. This often occurs when the will or trust has been modified close to the time of the loved one’s death.
Some estate disputes occur when one family member has been left out of the will or trust. If you believe some manipulation or coercion led to the estate document being changed, you should discuss this with your probate attorney as soon as possible.
Practical Advice & Concerns From a Probate Law Firm
It can be difficult to mourn and grieve the loss of your family member when you are busy trying to sort out the estate. We have assisted many clients and their families through this difficult time and have developed some practical advice.
- Get a minimum of ten copies of the death certificate.
- Assign yourself a period of a few hours to work on what needs to be done, but stop when that time is over.
- Assign tasks to other family members to lighten the load.
To relieve stress, take care of yourself, eat well and exercise regularly.
Preparing an Affidavit to Probate the Will
The affidavit process will depend on the county in which the decedent lived. You may contact the local courthouse, which can point you in the right direction on where to file your affidavit. Many county courts also provide a specific affidavit form that you can pick up.
If you talk to an estate attorney, they may also draft their own custom affidavit. The custom affidavit must still conform to all state rules and requirements. Fill out the form accordingly and provide any necessary attachments.
You will also need to include an official certified copy of the death certificate. File the affidavit according to local laws. An experienced probate attorney can do all this for you and help you move forward to the next step.
Not All Wills Have to Be Probated
In short, not all wills have to be probated. To ensure you follow the laws it is best to consult with a probate attorney before deciding not to probate a will. Most wills do not have to go through probate unless you need to transfer title of an asset or transfer ownership.
Probate is required for significant assets (like houses) to transfer ownership. You can bypass probate even with large assets by putting your assets into a living trust. When the trustee (creator of the trust) dies, the trust is still alive and is thus able to bypass the probate process.
As mentioned above, some examples of non-probate assets include life insurance policies, payable on death bank accounts, property owned in joint tenancy and so on. However, if an estate dispute occurs, probate litigation will be necessary.
Common Questions About Probate
Most courts in Texas require an attorney to be present when executing a will.
In most cases, the executor must file for probate within four years of the estate holder’s death.