Texas Estate Planning And Probate: Frequently Asked Questions
At Cain & Associates, we have many years of experience advising and representing clients in estate and probate matters throughout Texas. Whether you need to create an estate plan, update one, or address probate issues after the passing of a loved one, our attorneys can answer your questions and help you find solutions.
What happens if I die without a will?
Dying without a will is known as dying “intestate.” In the absence of a will, the distribution of your estate — your assets and debts — will proceed according to Texas probate laws.
Note: The way the probate court distributes an estate will likely not be the way you would have done it yourself if you had created a will, especially if you have significant assets or unique family concerns. In short, drafting a will with the help of an estate planning attorney is your first step toward ensuring that 1) your estate is distributed as you wish and 2) your family can avoid confusion and disputes upon your passing. In far too many cases, family disputes lead to lifelong rifts and heartache that could have been avoided if the decedent had taken the time to draft an enforceable will.
Under Texas law, the way assets are distributed in the absence of a will is not always straightforward. The factors affecting the distribution include whether or not you are married, have children, have living siblings and have living parents. Again, by drafting a will with the help of an experienced estate planning attorney, you can make your wishes known and enforceable, rather than leaving the decisions up to the probate court.
See our overview of wills and trusts to learn more about your full range of estate planning options — and the control you can exercise over the distribution of your estate. Taking the proper steps in your estate plan can give you peace of mind now and in the future.
What happens to powers of attorney upon death?
When you create a durable financial power of attorney, you give a selected agent the authority to make decisions on your behalf in the event that you become unable to make those decisions on your own. Examples of the types of matters your agent may handle while you are living include paying bills and managing bank or investment accounts.
However, the durable power of attorney ends at your death. What does that mean? It means that, after your death, your agent no longer has the authority to make decisions regarding your bills, business, funeral arrangements, real estate or other property.
If you want the same person who was your agent to also handle your estate matters after your passing, you will need to draft a will that names that person as your executor. Your executor has the authority to pay your debts, make burial arrangements and distribute property to heirs — but the agent to whom you gave power of attorney during your life does not automatically retain that authority after you die.
In short, don’t leave ambiguity in your estate plan by assuming that powers of attorney will remain in place after your death. Talk to an attorney at Cain & Associates about effectively coordinating all of your estate planning documents.
How long does probate take?
The answer to this question will depend on the complexity of the estate, whether the will can be located, and whether the will is contested. With a simple estate that involves no disputes, the probate process can usually be completed within six months. However, the process could take significantly longer — a year or more — if the estate is particularly complex or the will is contested or cannot be located.
Note: Not all types of assets are distributed through probate. These non-probate assets may include 401(k)s, pensions, IRAs, KEOGHs and insurance policies, which are transferred directly to the named beneficiaries by the bank or company that holds the asset. In other words, beneficiaries of these accounts, plans and policies do not have to wait for the completion of probate to receive the funds.
Regardless of whether the estate is simple or complex, the probate administration attorneys at Cain & Associates can help ensure that the process goes as quickly and smoothly as possible. Please see our probate administration overview to learn more about the probate services we offer.
Contact Cain & Associates
With offices in Cleburne, our attorneys and staff serve clients throughout Johnson County and all of Texas. To set up a consultation, please call us at 817-506-3233 or contact us by email. We look forward to hearing from you and helping you find solutions to whatever estate and probate issues you may be facing.