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Probate During A Pandemic

During these unprecedented times, we have all learned to adapt as families, communities, and businesses. We have seen that, even though our world effectively shut down, life has continued. We are more aware of our concerns and responsibilities than ever. Those who have lost loved ones during this time were unsure as to what probate options were still available. We want you to have access to all information concerning probate processes available to you and your family at this time.

The most important thing to realize when a loved one has passed, and you are preparing for potential probate, is that not all estates must go through a full administration. Most estates have property which is considered “non-probate” and will transfer automatically to the beneficiaries. The following assets are generally considered non-probate:

  1. Retirement Accounts and Life Insurance – Most retirement accounts and life insurance policies have beneficiary designations and will pass to the beneficiaries with only a death certificate.
  2. Property owned in Joint Tenancy w/ Right of Survivorship – Property owned by multiple people with “right of survivorship” will pass automatically to the surviving owner/s.
  3. POD/TOD Accounts – Many bank and brokerage accounts can have “payable on death” or “transfer on death” designations similar to retirement accounts and life insurance.

If there are still assets in the estate which must be probated, some estates are below a certain dollar amount (in Texas, this is $75,000 for all non-homestead estate property) and will be considered a “small estate” which maybe be settled by a Small Estate Affidavit. Some estates have only real property which may be passed to its beneficiaries by an Affidavit of Heirship, which only needs to be filed in the property records.

If the state is over the “small estate” threshold and requires a full probate, many of our local courts are still open for business virtually. We have attended many probate hearings during this time via Zoom in Harris and Montgomery County. To learn more about your options for probate during this time, please contact our firm at (936)206-3628.