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Texas Probate, Estate and Trust Administration

Serving Families and Individuals in Houston, Sugar Land, The Woodlands and all Throughout the Houston Metro Area

Probate and estate administration are the processes through which estate assets are transferred after death. When appropriate probate avoidance planning has not been implemented prior to death, probate court proceeding may be necessary if the deceased was a resident or owned assets in the state. Probate can be supervised or unsupervised. In an unsupervised probate, the independent executor manages assets, pays any debts, files required tax returns and various court documents, and distributes the estate assets. However, in certain circumstances the court may at any time require the process to be supervised (usually when someone expresses concern about the estate administration). In a supervised probate, the probate judge must approve every significant detail of the estate administration.

Probate Avoidance

Because probate can be a lengthy, costly and a public process, many people choose to avoid it. There are a number of legal strategies that will allow you to pass property to another person after death, without going through probate.

  • Joint Tenancy. Adding another person to your assets as a joint owner or "joint tenant with rights of survivorship" will allow your property to pass to them upon your death without going through probate. There are pitfalls to this strategy, however, to include subjecting such assets to any claims (such as lawsuits) against the co-owner and making them available to the co-owner's creditors -- all while you are still alive and planning on using the assets yourself
  • Beneficiary Designations. Texas allows Transfer on Death (TOD) or Pay on Death (POD) beneficiary designations to be added to bank accounts. Beneficiary designations like these may be preferable to joint tenancy in that they allow you to transfer property only upon your death without giving away current ownership. One of the drawbacks, however, is that it can be difficult to obtain an equitable distribution of property among your heirs by utilizing beneficiary designations. Additionally, understand that if you have beneficiaries listed on your assets, those assets will be distributed upon your death to the listed beneficiaries, even if your last will and testament states otherwise.
  • Revocable Living Trust. A Revocable Living Trust is a legal document that allows you to establish a separate entity (the trust) to "hold" legal title to your assets while you are alive, and to name trustees to manage those assets according to the trust terms. Typically, you can serve as the trustee while you are alive, managing your assets for your own benefit. Upon your disability or death, the trust terms appoint your successor trustee who then continues to manage -- or distribute -- the assets held in trust. A properly drafted trust can accomplish many goals, including guardianship and probate avoidance for your estate and bloodline, marital and creditor protection for your children.
Texas Estate and Trust Administration

A properly drafted and funded trust can generally avoid probate. The trust need not be filed with the probate court or anywhere else. Nonetheless, there are still steps necessary to administer the trust: beneficiaries must be contacted; assets must be gathered, valued and managed; potential creditors must be notified; debts, taxes and final expenses must be paid; and, ultimately, any remaining income and assets must be distributed in compliance with the trust terms. Successor trustees often lack the time, resources or knowledge to personally administer the trust, and therefore may call upon legal, accounting and investment professionals for assistance. Oftentimes, a corporate fiduciary (e.g., a trust company) can be a good alternative to relying solely on busy family members or friends to serve as trustee. We can help your successor trustee(s) deal with the complexities of administering your trust. Please call our office and we will be happy to schedule a consultation, whether or not our office has drafted the original trust.

Client Reviews
★★★★★
"In late February, 2020, I needed to file from out of state for successor Letters Testamentary in Harris County for my father's estate. The attorney I used, Ryan Cook, returned my call promptly, gave me the option of hourly or flat rate fee, explained what would be involved, then let his paralegal and other staff handle most of the contact with me. I worked with Kendall and Crystal. Both were very responsive and tech savvy. As the pandemic hit and communication everywhere was getting difficult and the probate court had limited access, these women continued to stay in touch and help me through the process, with us all working remotely. We were all experiencing a new way of being in the world and all three of them handled it with grace, humanity and efficiency." L.B.
★★★★★
"I would highly recommend this law firm because of their caring and professional staff. Mr. David Miller, Crystal Collins and Kendall Mair have gone above and beyond to help our family get all our elderly parents legal paperwork up to date. We are extremely appreciative for all they have done for us." A.B.
★★★★★
"I engaged the services of McCulloch & Miller to assist me with the difficult task of navigating Medicaid eligibility requirements for a close family member. I found them to be knowledgeable and thorough. Working with Darby was a pleasure. She took the worry and aggravation of dealing with a government entity off my shoulders. I highly recommend McCulloch and Miller for eldercare issues." B.S.
★★★★★
"We needed assistance with a Medicaid application and McCulloch & Miller were extremely helpful and expedited the paperwork promptly. We also greatly appreciated the professionalism, and caring manner in which Darby handled our case. If you need assistance, we highly recommend this firm!" P.M.