People in Texas may likely recall hearing many pieces of advice offered up by estate planning experts espousing the benefits of avoiding probate. The main reason for this counsel is to potentially avoid the fees associated with a long, drawn-out probate process.
Many may worry that those fees could possibly wipe out the bulk of an estate’s assets. Yet that may not be the case. Indeed, state law offers a way for those with an interest in a small estate to facilitate the probate process (or avoid it altogether).
Small estate administration
Per Section 354.001 of the Texas Estates Code, the personal representative may petition the court to use a simplified probate process in certain circumstances. Those circumstances include the estate’s property (excluding a decedent’s homestead, exempt property, immediate family allowances and certain debts) not exceeding the amount needed to cover all claims against the estate. In such a scenario, the court authorizes the payment of any remaining claims (to whatever extent the estate’s assets allow) and then outlines the distribution of any remaining property. Court officials then close the administration.
A small estate affidavit
Certain circumstances exist where those entitled to particular assets may petition the court to bypass the probate process altogether through a small estate affidavit. Per Section 205.001 of the Estates Code, this requires:
- 30 days passing from the date of the decedent’s death
- The total value of the estate (excluding a homestead and exempt property) not exceeding $75,000
- No petition pending calling for the appointment of a personal representative
The petition calling for a small estate affidavit must include a list of all of the estate’s assets and liabilities, as well as the attestation of two witnesses who have no interest in the estate.