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Estate Planning Basics in Texas

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Estate planning is not a happy topic to think about—however, it is a necessary one. Not a single person will live forever, and it’s likely that you have acquired assets in your lifetime that will have to be distributed upon your death. While estate planning is an extensive process, there are some basic facts to be aware of in Texas.

What Defines an Estate?

An estate is comprised of real and personal property. Real property is land and any structures located on that land as well as oil, gas, and mineral interests. Personal property is cash, bank accounts, clothing, personal effects, cars, boats, stocks, bonds, life insurance policies, and retirement accounts.

What Happens to Property Upon Death?

When a person dies, their property passes to the beneficiaries named in a will or to heirs determined by the state if there is not a will. However, regardless if an individual dies with or without a will, the probate court will determine ownership, verify the will (when there is one present), and administer the estate, thereby transferring the property. Probate can typically be avoided by executing a trust—this estate planning vehicle will be discussed in a later article.

What is the Role of Probate Court?

Probate court and its involvement in settling an estate is to protect the rights of the family, the individuals who are entitled to receive property, as well as creditors of the decedent’s estate. Having a will provides clear terms to the court and to the executor of an estate regarding how to direct assets after debts and claims are settled. However, if a person dies without a will, the court will distribute assets per Texas law—this might not follow a decedent’s life wishes.

Information in this article is not intended as legal advice. For more information visit www.tyla.org.

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