Have you ever been through the process of probating an estate? If so, you probably have a story or two you could share about it. If you haven’t, you may want to say a prayer that you won’t have to.
We have always said that Texas is a friendly place to die. While this is still mostly true when it comes to probate, it doesn’t take into account the painstaking time and effort it takes to actually re-title assets that go through probate.
Have you ever sat down to think what would happen to your brokerage account when you die, for an example? Well, if it’s titled as an individual account, it will go through probate. This means that whoever your executor/executrix is will probably get help from an attorney, compiling a list of all your assets, debts, and how they were titled. The attorney will start the process of probate. Upon clearance, the executor would receive “Letters of Testamentary” and a tax id for the estate. The individual account could then be moved into an estate account. Then the executor, upon clearance of the probated estate, could move the account per the heir’s final direction. Besides the actual calendar time this process takes, can you say Jeez?!
If that same individual account had a “Transfer on Death” designation, the process would look like this: The beneficiary of the account provides a death certificate and directives on where to send these monies. I don’t know about you - but I much prefer one sentence instructions.
Now…don’t take this as advice that all of your accounts need a Transfer on Death designation. There are many times and reasons that this designation is not appropriate. For example, your heirs might be minors or you may have a blended family, multiple generations, etc. There are many times too, that you may not want your heirs to inherit everything outright to protect them from themselves, creditors, divorces, second marriages, etc.
The good new is that this is not the only way to avoid probate. There are several ways to “move the furniture in the room” before your Will needs to vacuum everything up together.
There is one other myth we need to dispel: Many people often believe that when they set up a living trust, they will avoid probate. It is true that they may avoid probate, but it is not a guarantee. Too often, a living trust is set up and never funded or fully funded, resulting in the trust acting simply as a Will.
Right now, ask yourself these questions:
- What are each of my assets?
- What is the process to get them to my intended heirs when I am gone?
- Do I like that?
In fact, you may want to make it your goal that your Will is unnecessary when you die and all of your assets could have one sentence or even no sentence instructions. Leaving behind one more reason your heirs will remember you forever—in a good way! If you have questions, we’re here to help.