Probate, estate
administration, & trust administration

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Dealing with the Probate Court is a hassle, but it can be
avoided with proper guidance when creating an Estate
Plan or even after a loved one has passed and you are
distributing the Estate. Contact the Davidson Law Group for information on Probate, Estate Administration, Trust Administration, or Alternatives to Probate.

At the Davidson Law Group, we strive to help all of our clients avoid the hassle and expense of Probate, but if you or a loved one is facing the distribution of an Estate after death, we can guide you through the Probate and Estate Administration process as well as explore all possible Alternatives to Probate.  Probate can be a long, drawn out court process whether a loved one passed away without a will or even if they did have a proper will, but we can walk with you every step of the way regardless of the circumstances. Even if your loved one prepared enough to be able to avoid Probate, there are still procedural steps which need to be followed in order to complete the process.  Whether you are facing a Probate case in court, need to explore Alternatives to Probate, or need assistance with Trust Administration outside of court, the Davidson Law Group can assist you today.

PROBATE, ESTATE
ADMINISTRATION, & TRUST ADMINISTRATION

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At the Davidson Law Group, we strive to help all of our clients avoid the hassle and expense of Probate, but if you or a loved one is facing the distribution of an Estate after death, we can guide you through all possible Alternatives to Probate.  Probate can be a long, drawn out court process whether a loved one passed away without a will or even if they did have a proper will. Even if your loved one prepared enough to be able to avoid Probate, there are still procedural steps which need to be followed in order to complete the process.  Whether you are facing a Probate case in court and need Alternatives to Probate or whether you need assistance with Trust Administration outside of court, the Davidson Law Group can assist you today.

Probate and Estate Administration

Probate is a legal procedure by which a court recognizes a person’s death and approves the initiation of the administration of that person’s estate. The process will occur regardless of whether the person died with or without a Last Will and Testament. Below are some basic Probate terms that are important to understand:

Estate – An estate is all of a person’s assets. These include but are not limited to real estate, cash, stocks, bonds, life insurance, investment accounts, retirement accounts, bank accounts, vehicles, and miscellaneous personal belongings.

Will – A will is a legal document that tells the Probate Court how to distribute a person’s estate according to his or her wishes.

Intestate – If a person dies without a will, they are deemed to have died intestate. There are then certain laws that step in to determine how his or her estate should be distributed.

Decedent – Decedent is the legal term for the person who has died and now has the estate that is in Probate.

Executor – There is typically an executor named in a decedent’s will, and this person has multiple duties and responsibilities including but not limited to making an inventory and appraisement of the decedent’s estate, paying estate debts, paying estate taxes, and distributing the estate assets according to the decedent’s will.

Administrator – If a person dies intestate and there is no executor named, the Probate court requires an administrator be names to carry out the normal duties of an executor.

Independent vs. Dependent Administration

There are two types of Estate Administration in Texas, Independent and Dependent Administration. Independent Administration usually occurs when a person dies with a valid will and has named an Executor for the Estate. In these circumstances, the Executor can carry out the process without strict supervision by the Probate Court. Dependent Administration usually occurs when someone dies without a will or intestate. In these circumstances, the Administrator is required to post a bond, receive the Court’s approval for each step in the process, and succumb to strict oversight by the Probate Court.

Try to Avoid Probate at All Costs

In basic terms, Probate is simply a legal procedure to distribute the assets of the deceased if there is no plan in place for assets to be distributed outside of the formal government Probate process. Whether you are planning for what will happen to your property when you pass or whether you have the responsibility of overseeing a loved one’s Estate Distribution after they have passed, you want to avoid formal Probate procedures at all costs. Dealing with the Probate Court is expensive and slow-moving, and your assets could be stuck in legal proceedings for a significant amount of time, leaving your loved ones with an immense burden. Also, Probate proceedings are public record for everyone to see and can end up draining a large part of the Estate to pay all fees and expenses involved.

Probate can be avoided both by pre-planning and by post-death strategies; so, contact the Davidson Law Group, and we will do everything possible to help ensure that your or a loved one’s Estate avoids Probate and is distributed properly and efficiently.

Pre-Planning Alternatives to Probate

Trusts |

At the Davidson Law Group, we strongly believe that having your assets in a Trust is the best possible way to keep your loved ones from having to deal with the Probate Court. A Trust allows you to create a Plan for your wealth and assets and keeps it all out of the public eye. A Trust is the most effective way to communicate to your loved ones exactly how you want your Estate to be distributed without any interference from the government. A Trust is most certainly a good idea if you own property in multiple states, if you are concerned about becoming incapacitated, or if you are afraid that family members will disagree about your wishes after you pass; but, if you simply want to protect your loved ones, choose your beneficiaries, and control the distribution of your assets, a Trust is right for you. During our free consultation, we can help you determine which type of Trust is fitting for you unique situation and dive into more detail on the amazing benefits of a Trust as an alternative to Probate.

Family overlooking city - Davidson Law Group.

| Life Insurance, IRAs, and Retirement Accounts

The proceeds of Life Insurance, IRAs, and other retirement accounts give you the ability to determine beneficiaries while you are still alive, and then distribute these assets to your beneficiaries outside of Probate when you pass. If avoiding Probate is your only goal, then this is a good option, but it must be said that this option alone does not provide the protections and control that a Trust can offer.

| Lady Bird Deeds

An Enhanced Life Estate Deed or Lady Bird Deed is a legal mechanism that allows you to transfer real estate to beneficiaries outside of Probate without losing control over the property during your lifetime. Basically, you are giving beneficiaries remainder interest in a piece of property while retaining a life estate while you are living. A life estate means that you can occupy, use, sell, or mortgage the property, and you can change the beneficiaries at any time. Under a Lady Bird Deed, the property is protected from creditors of the beneficiaries during the owner’s lifetime, and the transfer does have gift tax consequences or affect the look-back period for Medicaid qualification. Another major benefit of a Lady Bird Deed is that the beneficiaries would receive the property with a stepped-up basis meaning that if a beneficiary attempted to sell the house, the cost basis would be based on date of death value and could save significantly on capital gains taxes. A Lady Bird Deed is a great tool because it allows property to be transferred outside of Probate with some creditor, Medicaid, and tax protection; Lady Bird Deeds can also be used in conjunction with Trusts for maximum protection and convenience.

Estate lawyer guidance - grandfather and grandson.

| POD or TOD Accounts

You can designate individuals to receive the contents of a bank account outside of Probate when you pass by making the account a Pay on Death or Transfer on Death Account. These types of accounts are preferable to Joint Tenancy for avoiding Probate because you do not give up any ownership rights while you are still alive, but they still don’t give you the creditor protection or control over the distribution of your assets that Trusts can provide.

Joint Tenancy |

You can add loved ones as “Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship” to your assets so that those assets can pass to the loved ones outside of Probate, but this is more complicated than just having a Joint Account with someone. An Attorney at the Davidson Law Group can make sure that you file the correct paperwork to properly make a loved a Joint Tenant with Rights of Survivorship. However, even if you have properly created a Joint Tenancy, there are still some dangers to this strategy in that it does not give the creditor protection of the Trust; in fact, the person you add as a Joint Tenant can make you susceptible to their own creditors while you are still alive. Even though this strategy does have pitfalls and does not hold the same creditor protection as a Trust, it is still a good option if your only goal is to avoid Probate.

Davidson Law Group - retired couple holding hands.
Probate attorney - elderly woman at table.

Transfer on Death Deeds |

The Transfer on Death Deed works very similarly to the Transfer on Death Account in that it allows you to designate a primary and contingent beneficiary to receive your real property outside of Probate after you pass away. There are very specific elements that are required by law for a Transfer on Death Deed to be effective, so it is very important that you meet with an attorney before attempting to file a Transfer on Death Deed. Also, much like the Transfer on Death Accounts, the Deeds do not offer the creditor protection and control over assets that a Trust provides.

Alternatives to Probate After a Loved One Has Passed

Trust Administration |

Even if all of a person’s assets were in a Trust before they passed away, there are still many legal procedures that should be handled prior to the distribution of assets. By consulting with an Estate Planning attorney from Davidson Law Group, you can have peace of mind and trust that everything is being handled correctly. Failing to have a proper Trust Administration could result in added tax consequences, improper transfer of assets, legal liability for the Trustee, and other issues that could have easily been avoided by talking to an Attorney about Trust Administration.

Probate lawyer signing contract.

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| Affidavit of Heirship

An Affidavit of Heirship is a tool that can be used to avoid Probate and transfer real estate after a person passes away regardless of whether or not he or she had a will. This document is filed with the county clerk and avoids full Probate proceedings, but there are very specific statutory requirements for it to be proper; so, it is very important to speak with a Probate Attorney at the Davidson Law Group about this process.

Judicial Determination of Heirship |

While a Judicial Determination of Heirship does avoid formal Probate proceedings, this particular option can be very expensive and time-consuming. This process is possible when a person dies without a will, and it can be used for all types of assets. An application is filed with the Probate Court, and then the Court appoints an independent attorney to find and represent unknown heirs if any exist. When this investigation is complete, there is a hearing in the Probate Court to make a final determination on distribution of assets. As mentioned above, this process is an Alternative to Probate but is still very sluggish and costly.

Elder law attorney guidance in the courtroom.

| Small Estate Affidavit

A Small Estate Administration or Small Estate Affidavit is a process often used to avoid formal Probate proceedings, but there are certain requirements for this tool to be used. The Estate of the decedent must be $50,000 or less, and there are certain documents that need to be filed with the Probate Court. There are no court hearings required, but there are certain statutory requirements that can be complicated, so please contact a Probate attorney at the Davidson Law Group to find out more about this option as an Alternative to Probate.

| Muniment of Title

Muniment of Title is most often used as an Alternative to Probate when a person passes away with a Will, the Estate has very few assets, and there are no debts owed by the Estate. In this situation, the Will is filed as a public record for Muniment of Title only, so there is still some interaction with the Probate Court even though it avoids full Probate proceedings. As with most Alternatives to Probate, there are very specific requirements for Muniment of Title, so, if you or a loved one is facing Probate, it is imperative that you contact a Probate Attorney at the Davidson Law Group to help guide you through the process.

An Estate Planning Lawyer Can Help With All Aspects of Probate

The Davidson Law Group, we will do everything we can to help our clients avoid the long and expensive process of formal Probate proceedings. While we do believe that Trusts are the most effective way to help our clients avoid Probate, we will work diligently to help guide you through the Probate and Estate Administration process and potentially discover which Alternatives to Probate fit your unique situation. Regardless of which direction we take, there are many complicated procedural steps that need to be followed, so contact an Estate Planning and Probate Attorney at the Davidson Law Group, and we will begin working on your you.