If you are handling a modestly valued estate, you may be wondering if you have to go through the dreaded probate process. Probate is not just for million-dollar estates. So how much does an estate have to be worth to go to probate in Texas? The short answer is the type of assets in the estate, not their value, determine whether you have to probate it or not.
Is Probate Required in Texas?
Not all estates have to go through probate in Texas. To understand why, it is important to know what probate means. Probate is the process of gathering a deceased person’s assets and distributing them to the legal heirs and beneficiaries. In other words, the probate judge has to figure out who gets what.
Probate Is Required If the Estate Has Probate Assets
Only certain assets must go through the probate process. When a decedent dies, all their property is categorized as either a probate or non-probate asset. Probate assets are assets solely in the decedent’s name and that do not have a beneficiary designation. As the name suggests, these types of assets go through probate. Non-probate assets are everything else, such as jointly titled property, life insurance policies, pay-on-death (POD) accounts, and revocable living trusts. These assets automatically transfer to either the co-owner or named beneficiary without court intervention.
You need to probate an estate with probate assets only because the court has to step in and ensure the right people inherit the assets. If the estate is made up entirely of non-probate assets, then there is nothing for the court to do. The beneficiaries have already been designated and have the legal right to the property when the decedent dies.
When Is Probate Necessary in Texas?
Probate is necessary for estates that have probate assets. It is irrelevant whether the decedent left a will or not.
The type of probate, meaning the complexity and extent of the court’s supervision, varies by each estate. If the estate qualifies, there are a few probate shortcuts in Texas.
Small Estate Affidavit
Texas offers a simplified probate proceeding, called a small estate affidavit. If the estate meets certain requirements, you simply fill out a form (sworn statement), get all beneficiaries to sign, and file it with the local probate court. This may be an option if:
- The estate does not own real estate (other than the decedent’s home);
- The estate’s value is $75,000 or less (excluding the home and other exempt property); and
- The decedent did not leave a will.
There are more requirements under Texas law, and accurately calculating the estate’s value is tricky. A qualified probate attorney can help you determine if using a small estate affidavit is possible.
Muniment of Title
Another alternative to a full probate proceeding is a muniment of title. This shortcut is allowable only if:
- The decedent left a will;
- There are no outstanding or unsecured debts (except for a mortgage); and
- The only assets to transfer are vehicles or real estate.
With a muniment of title, you do not have to file an inventory with the court, appoint an executor, or open a formal probate proceeding.
Who Can Probate the Estate for Me?
A lawyer can represent you in probating the estate. If the estate has to go through the full probate process, you probably do not want to do it alone. Texas probate law is complex, and you must meet strict deadlines throughout the process. Probate courts are not very lenient when it comes to filing paperwork late.
In some circumstances, you need a lawyer to represent you. If you are serving as the executor of an estate in Texas, Texas law requires that you have an attorney. Executors represent the beneficiary’s interests, which creates certain legal responsibilities and obligations. You need legal representation to carry out these fiduciary duties to the estate beneficiaries.
Contact Our Experienced Probate Attorneys
If you have questions about probate in Texas, reach out to the probate administration lawyers at The Law Offices of Kyle Robbins, PLLC. Let us walk you through the different probate options and help you through the process. We can assist in valuing the estate, filing paperwork, and communicating with the probate court on your behalf. Our goal is to handle the legal stresses that come when families lose a loved one. Give us a call at 512-643-9481 to schedule a free consultation or fill out our online form.