Not all of a person’s real and personal property makes it into her “probate estate.” The probate estate is the portion of her possessions which require some kind of probate in order for title or possession to be passed on to her heirs and beneficiaries. Items excluded from the probate estate are mostly those items where title automatically passes to another person at the moment of the decedent’s death.
Probate estates in Lampasas County often include some typical kinds of possessions. Community interests in a piece of real estate are part of a probate estate; if a property is owned by a husband and wife together as community property, the deceased spouse’s community interest is part of that spouse’s probate estate. Any real property owned solely by a decedent is part of his estate; this is usually property owned by a single individual, property purchased by an individual before he married, or property he inherited. Bank accounts that are not “joint with right of survivorship” are almost always part of a probate estate. Retirement, life insurance, and other benefits paid directly to an estate are part of a probate estate. Vehicles are frequently included in a probate estate also. Keep in mind that real and personal property's inclusion in probate estates is very fact-specific.
There are some common “non-probate assets” that many people own. Bank accounts and mobile homes held “jointly with right of survivorship” pass automatically to the surviving person’s name, and are not part of a probate estate. Real estate can also pass this way using certain kinds of deeds. Life estates, a property interest which expires when a person dies, are not part of a probate estate. Life insurance paid out to a named individual instead of an estate is not part of the probate estate. Property held in trusts typically is not part of a probate estate, although this is dependent on the type of trust.
Are you responsible for a loved one’s estate? If you need to probate an estate (or even aren’t sure if you need to), come and see us at Martin, Millican, Henderson & Shrum. We have been serving the people of Lampasas, Copperas Cove, Kempner, Lometa, Llano, and Bend since 1975. We can tell you what kind of probate you may or may not need and help set your mind at ease; simple consultations are free.
This blog post only applies to the laws of Texas. The post may or may not match your individual situation. Be careful not to treat it as specific legal advice, as it may not meet your individual needs. It may give you a solid basis for discussion with your own attorney. You should consult with your personal attorney before you take any action on this or any legal issue. Also, please be aware that laws change, so this column is valid only as of the date it was published. This communication does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader.