If you own a vacation home, condominium or piece of land outside of Texas, you may need more than just a will to ensure your assets pass on as smoothly and painlessly as possible.

Because real estate is always subject to the laws of the state in which it’s found, your family members could have to attend probate court proceedings in each state where you owned property. These out-of-state proceedings are known as “ancillary probate.” They vary in complexity and can be costly, but they can also be avoided.

Joint titles and living trusts

There are two common ways that property owners can avoid subjecting their family members to the added stress of multiple probate proceedings:

  • Change your deed. Only property that you own solely in your name is subject to probate proceedings. If you add other names to the deed, the property passes to them with no need for a will or probate.
  • Establish a living trust. Like a will, a revocable living trust allows you to name beneficiaries and direct the transfer of your assets. You can even revise it as you need, and all 50 states will recognize your trust, no matter where you create it.

Wills and living trusts are valuable tools that allow you to shape your own legacy. They let you transfer your home, out-of-state property and other valuables to the people who will most appreciate them. Used properly, they may even spare your family the extra grief that can come with multiple court appearances.

You shape your legacy

While each way allows your family to avoid difficulty after you have gone, both have drawbacks that you may want to seek legal advice on before choosing.