When a property owner dies in Texas, their real estate holdings are often the only assets required to go through court-ordered probate, which can be a slow and costly process.
However, by doing a little homework and working with an experienced probate and estate administration attorney, you may be able to avoid this process for your family farm or home.
Saving your family from excess costs and hassles
By working with a knowledgeable lawyer, probate can be avoided by using these estate planning options:
- Revocable living trust: By transferring real estate to this legal entity, your successor trustee can approve the transfer of the property after your death or if you are incapacitated. Probate isn’t necessary because your signature is not required for the transfer.
- Transfer on Death Deed: Similar to how life insurance and retirement accounts work, the TODD allows you to designate a beneficiary for real estate holdings. You need to execute and record the TODD in real property records while you are alive. Your heirs only need to file an affidavit proving your death for the property to transfer when you die.
- Ladybird deed: Similar to a TODD, this option allows you to designate a beneficiary for the property after your death. However, you retain certain rights over controlling the real estate while you are still alive, including the ability to sell the property.
- Heirship affidavit: This option is exercised only when a property owner dies without a will. Family members file an order after two independent witnesses confirm their family connection to the deceased and that they are valid heirs.
Having a plan saves time, money and headaches
Estate planning is crucial for protecting a person’s legacy and for taking care of future generations. The family farm or home is one of the most significant assets anyone will ever have to pass along to their heirs. Once you have a plan in place, make sure you review it with your lawyer and make changes when significant life events occur.