Probate is the process referring to the distribution of assets named in a will, and it requires an executor or personal representative. However, probate can take months or even years.
To simplify the process, there are some ways to avoid probate completely or reduce the assets that go through probate.
FindLaw discusses that designating beneficiaries means those assets do not have to go through probate. If an asset names a beneficiary, there is a simple transfer of ownership after death, and it is often a smarter move than owning the asset jointly. Assets that commonly name a beneficiary include:
- IRAs, 401ks and other retirement plans
- Life insurance benefits
- Health savings accounts
- Stock options
Jointly owned assets
Assets that the decedent jointly owned with someone else also do not go through probate. At the time of death, transfer automatically occurs to the other owner. This is a common estate planning tool for married couples. Common assets include real estate, vehicles, stocks, bank accounts and artwork.
The Texas Constitution and Statutes discusses that small estates may be able to skip the formal probate process if the decedent died without a will. The decedent’s heirs can file a small estate affidavit if the assets, excluding exempt property and the homestead, do not exceed a value of $75,000, and it has been 30 days since the decedent’s death. There must also not be a petition for a personal representative appointment. The heirs must file this affidavit with the clerk of court in the county in which the decedent lived.