Inheritance and Probate
What is inheritance and probate?
INHERITANCE is the act of receiving assets that pass to designated heirs upon the death of the owner of such assets. There are several ways that heirs can receive their inheritance. For many, that process involves a trip into court with a legal representative. While the court seems to enjoy injecting itself into the distribution of assets to heirs, it’s not ALWAYS necessary to use that approach.
PROBATE is the transfer and dispensation of a deceased person’s assets and liabilities. The probate process is a legal (and potentially costly) one, going through the court for clarification and approval. Most estates in Texas go through this process. In some instances it’s the only way to resolve the estate. However, as mentioned above, it isn’t always the best course of action.
When in doubt about whether your situation requires going through the probate process, always contact a professional. A qualified real estate pro (like us, for instance) can advise you with the process concerning real property (at no cost if you call us). For comprehensive matters, a good real estate attorney would be a prudent choice to consult. It is wise to first gather free advice before moving to the source that would cost your family or estate.
NO VALID WILL EQUALS NO PROBATE. Estates that are not governed by a valid will are subject to the guidelines laid out in the Texas Estates Code. Such estates are virtually all subject to court proceedings. This path can get complicated, and can involve many more people and family members. The time to conclude the proceedings can be anywhere from several months to years. This process is a very common source of family discord and large legal bills sometimes surpassing the value of the estate in question.
NOT EVERY WILL NEEDS TO BE PROBATED. Smaller estates, particularly those with smaller amounts of cash, securities and such can many times be handled through the agreement of the heirs. For instance, an estate with only a piece of real estate can be taken care of internally, and can be sold or transferred through the agreement of the parties involved, and a title company. The advantage of avoiding probate is the time and cost involved.
AN ESTATE CAN CONTAIN SOME NON-PROBATE ASSETS ALSO. Instruments that have a named beneficiary are not required to go through the probate process. Such instruments include retirement plans such as IRAs, 401Ks and pension plans. Also, life insurance policies are not part of the probate process.
WILLS HAVE A SHELF LIFE. For a will to have effect, it must be probated within four years of the deceased’s death. After four years, the court will disperse any assets and pay any obligations according to the Texas Estates Code.
WE HAVE THIS PROPERTY WE INHERITED. WHAT SHOULD WE DO NOW? First, determine with all heirs a goal. Then, seek advice about how to achieve that goal. It’s always prudent to seek free advice before turning to someone who charges a fee. Give us a call. We will tell you, under no obligation to you, what we know. Take that information and use it as you see fit.