How does probate work in Texas?

| Jul 31, 2020 | Firm News

When planning your estate in Texas, you should understand how the state handles probate. Some of your assets may go through this process, which involves the court supervision of property distribution, tax payments and creditor claims.

Review the laws about Texas probate to inform your estate planning strategy.

Exempt assets

Texas law allows the executor of a will to transfer certain assets outside of the probate process. Probate-exempt assets include:

  • Annuity payments for survivor benefits
  • Proceeds from a life insurance policy
  • Bank accounts with a payable-on-death beneficiary
  • Assets owned together with another person
  • Community property shared with a spouse

After subtracting the value of exempt assets, the estate must go through probate if the remaining value exceeds $75,000. Otherwise, the executor can request a simplified process in which he or she provides a full accounting of the estate to the court after settlement.

Types of probate

In most cases, the Texas court allows for independent probate administration by the executor of a will, as long as the deceased person has made this provision. With independent administration, the executor can distribute assets to beneficiaries, sell assets owned by the estate, and pay taxes and debts without court permission. The executor can also avoid posting a bond.

Independent administration still requires the executor to give the court an official inventory of estate property and give creditors official notice of the estate. When the estate does not qualify for independent administration, the Texas dependent administration process involves more extensive court supervision of the executor.

Very small estates may qualify for muniment of title. Texas makes this process available when the deceased person has a valid will, does not have unpaid debts and is not subject to a Medicaid claim for benefit recovery.

Regardless of the type of probate, the executor starts the process by filing the will with the Texas probate court. The court will determine whether or not the estate requires muniment of title, independent administration or dependent administration.