Many, if not most, estates in Texas must go through the probate process. If you have a will when you die, the probate court will decide if the will is valid and oversee the process as your personal representative or executor distributes your estate according to your wishes. Without a will, your property will be distributed to your relatives according to Texas law, as administered by the probate court. Either way, the probate court has a role in the administration of your estate.
However, not all property must go through the probate process. Some types of property can pass to another person without ever technically becoming part of the estate.
Real estate and bank accounts
Sometimes real estate has a transfer-on-death deed associated with it. If any real estate you own has one of these, the real estate will not be part of your probate estate but will go to the person named in the deed upon your death.
Similarly, you may have payable-on-death forms as part of your bank accounts. If so, your bank accounts will not have to go through probate, since the money in them will go to the person named on the form.
Life insurance and retirement accounts
A life insurance policy does not usually go through probate. Since setting up a life insurance policy involves naming someone as a beneficiary, the proceeds will go to the beneficiary upon the policyholder’s death.
Instead of going through probate, the beneficiary must contact the life insurance company directly about receiving the proceeds.
Like life insurance policies, you may have named beneficiaries for any of your retirement accounts. Before probating an estate, the retirement companies should be contacted to confirm if the account payouts will go to any named beneficiaries. If not, they will become part of the probate estate.
You may not currently know which of your property already has named beneficiaries or heirs. An estate planning attorney can help assess your property and develop an estate plan according to your wishes.