If having your assets pass to your beneficiaries in a smooth and inexpensive procedure is important to you, then estate planning should be conducted now while you are healthy and fully competent to sign the documents. In some cases, probate can be avoided by estate planning that sets up living trusts. The owner turns over and transfers title of designated assets to the living trust, to be administered by the trustee. In Texas and other states, living trusts become the recipients of some or all your assets during your own lifetime.
One of the main characteristics of living trusts is that they are not subject to administration by the decedent's estate. Because the assets in living trusts are already owned by the trust and administered by the trustee, the estate has no interest in the assets upon one's death, and the assets are not subject to probate. In states where there is an estate or inheritance tax, putting the assets in a living trust can save substantial funds.
Even if there is no state tax at death, the expenses of probate, which is a public court proceeding to review and approve the estate, will be substantial so that avoiding probate is generally going to be an economic plus to one's beneficiaries. Thus, it is not always necessary to file an estate after a person passes. However, where there are assets in the name of the decedent on the date of death, a probate estate will have to be filed to value the assets, pay bills owed, make distributions, and pay all estate fees and expenses.
In the estate planning process, the assistance of an experienced attorney is highly recommended for Texas residents. In this complex area of the law, experience is an advantage that will make everyone's life easier and minimize potential problems. The preparation of wills, trusts, powers of attorney, health care directives and other legal instruments is best done by a skilled professional after detailed consultation with the client.
Source: benzinga.com, "After Your Funeral, Your Financial Assets Could Haunt: Estate Planning Basics", Rebecca Sheppard, Feb. 2, 2015