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Which Assets Must Go Through Probate?

Redding Law Office Sept. 27, 2023

The probate process in Texas can feel overwhelming and complicated for many family members and friends who have recently lost a loved one. In addition to dealing with the complex emotions surrounding the death, you may also be responsible for administering the estate which requires you to address the assets left behind and distribute them to beneficiaries. 

This process can be time-consuming and costly, and many people choose to work with a probate attorney to reduce this workload. If you’d like to sit down with an experienced lawyer and are in Southlake, Texas, call the Redding Law Office today. 

What Is Probate?

Probate is the legal process where a deceased person’s estate is processed through the courts. Typically, this means that the executor must file the will with the county court where the deceased lived and under its supervision, address all remaining assets and debts that were left behind before anything can be distributed to heirs. 

Importantly, not all assets will be required to go through probate, but this depends on how the estate plan was established. Part of educating yourself on probate in general is being able to answer a couple of key questions. Namely, “​​What assets go through probate?” and “What assets are exempt from probate?” 

Assets Subject to Probate in Texas

In general, most assets that are only listed in a will, or those that have not been listed in any estate plan must go through probate. If someone dies without a will in place, this is referred to as dying “intestate” and in this case, the person’s assets will almost always have to go through probate. Assets that are subject to probate could include: 

  • Personal property such as jewelry, furniture, vehicles, or other heirlooms. 

  • Real estate with no listed co-owner. 

  • Bank accounts. 

  • Life insurance policy with no listed beneficiary. 

Which Assets Are Exempt From Probate?

Any assets that are held in joint ownership, or have been placed into a trust will not have to go through probate. These often include: 

  • Retirement accounts with a named beneficiary. 

  • Real estate. 

  • Trust assets. 

  • Any account with a Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship (JTWROS). 

  • Pay-on-Death accounts. 

  • Any personal property that’s listed with a joining owner such as a car or home. 

The Texas Small Estate Affidavit

Another exception to the probate requirement is when the estate is small enough. If you’re able to obtain a small estate affidavit, you can avoid the cost and time associated with probate. In Texas, the estate must be valued at less than $75,000 to meet the requirements of a “small estate.” Additionally, you must show that you’re able to cover any outstanding debts with the remaining assets. 

Strategies for Avoiding Probate

Although you may not be able to be able to keep all assets out of the courts, there are a few tips for avoiding probate that you should consider when setting up your own estate plan: 

  • Always work with an experienced estate planning attorney

  • Place high-value assets in a living trust

  • Give away property to your loved ones while you’re still living. 

  • Add a joint owner to any real estate you own. 

  • Designate a beneficiary for any accounts, investments, insurance plans, or pension funds in your name. 

  • Keep your will updated

Work With an Attorney Who Wants the Best for You and Your Loved Ones

If you're in the Southlake, Texas, region and want to meet with a lawyer for help working through the probate process, reach out to the Redding Law Office to schedule an appointment. The Redding Law Office serves the surrounding areas of Tarrant County, Denton County, Flower Mound, Keller, and Colleyville.