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Four Simple Steps to Take the Pain out of Probate Court
If there is not a good reason to probate an Estate (and, sometimes, there is) probate court is one of those places you don’t want to visit. Surprisingly, compared to other states, the probate process in Texas is not overly complicated…however, this does NOT mean that your estate administration efforts will be painless.
For most people, avoiding probate in the first place is the preferred strategy. There are several ways to bypass the probate process in Texas, one of which is to use “probate alternatives” in your Estate Plan. These alternatives include things like a trust or an enhanced life estate deed. Sometimes strategies such as “gifting” may need to be used. However, “probate alternatives” must be part of an integrated Estate Plan to work and you need to be careful with using them as costly taxes, penalties, or other negative ramifications could be detrimental to your Plan. Therefore, we strongly recommend working with an estate planning attorney who can analyze how your assets and liabilities should be structured.
If avoiding probate simply isn’t in the cards (but you DO have a Will), you’ll at least want to make the process easier for your estate executor or personal representative by taking the following steps:
Including a Self-Proving Affidavit in Your Will
This is not a requirement of Texas probate law, but it can help prevent challenges to the validity of your Will. In essence, a self-proving affidavit, needs to be signed before a notary by both the executor and the two credible, disinterested witnesses (i.e., non-beneficiaries) who executed the Will. The self-proving affidavit “proves” up the validity of your Will in a probate proceeding so that the witnesses do not have to go to the hearing and testify in person.
Ensure the Will Meets Texas Requirements
The Lone Star state is not party to the Uniform Probate Code, which means that what makes a Will valid here may not be the same as in other states. If you are moving here from another state (or recently moved here from another state), you should strongly consider getting your Will reviewed by a Texas-based estate planning attorney to make sure it will not turn into a probate court nightmare in the future. All the same, you should review your Will from time to time, and update it as needed. We recommend an annual review of your Estate Plan.
At the Law Firm of Blanche D. Smith, we are focused on doing what is best for your family. Every family’s circumstance is different, and we work hard to protect your assets and your legacy—now, and for a long time to come. Contact us today using the brief form below: