Austin Estate Planning Lawyers


If you die in Texas without an estate plan, the court might ultimately need to decide how your assets will be distributed. Fortunately, an experienced estate planning attorney can help you create a legally enforceable estate plan to prevent confusion, protect your interests, and avoid unnecessary costs.

Since 1963, the compassionate and knowledgeable lawyers at Minton, Bassett, Flores & Carsey, P.C., have helped individuals like you create estate plans that clearly reflect their wishes. From drafting wills to creating living trusts with advanced directives, our dedicated estate planning lawyers can simplify the process and guide you through each step.

Call us today for your confidential consultation to learn more about how we can help secure your loved ones’ futures.

Why You Need Our Estate Planning and Probate Lawyers

We have a thorough knowledge of the state laws and procedures that must be followed in estate planning and administration. These include the process of asset distribution among family members or other beneficiaries.

Our Estate Planning Services

By hiring Minton, Bassett, Flores & Carsey, P.C., you can depend on an estate planning lawyer in Austin, Texas, to help draft and execute all the important documents involved in estate planning, such as:

  • Last Will and Testament – A last will and testament is a legal document that outlines your final wishes. You can appoint a legal guardian for minor children, designate beneficiaries to receive your assets, and explain how you want your surviving family to handle your affairs. A will does not avoid probate. That means the executor must enter the will into probate for a judge to approve the distribution of property.
  • Trust – Whether you create a revocable living trust or irrevocable trust, the named beneficiary can access the assets held in trust immediately upon your death without going through probate. A testamentary trust allows assets to pass to beneficiaries through your will and is subject to probate. With a special needs trust, you can set aside funds and assets to benefit a special needs adult or child.
  • Powers of Attorney – Multiple types of powers of attorney are available to perform various functions. Your chosen attorney-in-fact will have the authority to manage your medical, financial, or legal affairs if you become incapacitated or incompetent.
  • Healthcare Documents and Advanced Directives – An advanced directive specifies the type of medical treatment and end-of-life care you would like if you can no longer speak for yourself. Certain circumstances, such as coma, sudden illness, or incapacitating injury, would apply.
  • Directive to Physician – A directive to a physician is also called a living will. It communicates your wishes regarding medical treatment in the future if your condition is terminal or irreversible.
  • HIPAA Forms – You can sign a HIPAA authorization, so your designated medical power of attorney has the authority to access your medical records and direct your healthcare team on your care.
  • Community Property Agreements – Spouses can sign a community property agreement so a surviving spouse can assume ownership and control over shared assets upon the other’s death.

Types of Probate in Austin, Texas

Five categories of probate exist in estate planning in Texas:

  • Probate of an original will
  • Small estate affidavit
  • Muniment of title
  • Independent administration
  • Dependent administration

Probate of an Original Will

Probating an original will is the most traditional method. When someone dies with a valid will, the appointed executor must admit the will to probate. That means they need a probate judge to review and validate it before administering the estate.

Going through probate can take a while. The executor must get the judge to sign off on it and notify all beneficiaries and creditors that the will is in probate.

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Muniment of Title

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A muniment of title is another viable option for probating an estate because it doesn’t require preparing and filing an inventory with the probate court or opening formal probate administration. That means there doesn’t need to be an estate executor to distribute assets.

This method is often easier, less expensive, and faster than pursuing traditional probate. However, you can only use this option if the deceased has a last will and testament, doesn’t leave behind debt, and the only assets they own are real estate or motor vehicles.

Pursuing a muniment of title isn’t a beneficial option if the deceased has financial assets, such as brokerage accounts holding bonds or stocks, bank accounts, or CDs. Third parties typically don’t agree to turn over those assets when a formal administrator or executor isn’t available to manage and distribute them.

Independent Administration

Independent administration happens when the deceased doesn’t have a will. State laws establish the heirs of the deceased to determine who will receive the assets in the estate.

This can be a complicated probate process because the heirs must prove they are entitled to the deceased’s property. The probate court can appoint a probate lawyer to investigate and confirm that all disclosed relatives are legally entitled to inherit the assets.

Each family member involved in the case and two non-family members must attend the hearing. The non-family members must serve as witnesses and testify that they knew the deceased and that the disclosed family history is accurate.

Dependent Administration

A dependent administration is necessary when the deceased doesn’t have a will and the heirs can’t decide who to appoint as the estate administrator, or when the process involves a minor child who can’t sign legal documents.

This type of probate can take years to complete because it must meet all requirements under state law. Additionally, the administrator must attend a hearing before a probate judge for permission to sell real estate or other property, distribute assets to the heirs, or pay creditors and estate expenses.

What Is Probate?

Probate is the process a will must go through for a court to validate it, authorizing the executor or administrator to distribute assets to beneficiaries. The probate judge oversees the process to protect the rights of anyone with interests in the estate, such as a beneficiary or creditor.

Probate ensures the deceased’s property transfers to the appropriate heirs or beneficiaries. The legal process also establishes taxes and debts the executor must pay to settle the estate.

Creditors can come after debt that the testator owns when they die. The executor or administrator might have to use assets to satisfy the debt before distributing the remaining property to the beneficiaries.

Small Estate Affidavit

A small estate affidavit is often less expensive and faster than other methods of probating an estate. A surviving family member must file a form with the probate court.

Typically, the judge will grant a small estate affidavit if the deceased doesn’t have a will, the estate doesn’t include any real estate, and the only financial assets are less than $75,000 in value. Pursuing an alternative probate method is necessary if none of these factors apply.

However, every immediate family member must approve a small estate affidavit to proceed, including a surviving spouse and any surviving children. Traditional probate is the only option if anyone refuses to sign the affidavit.

Common Probate Questions

There are several legal strategies that beneficiaries and heirs can use to avoid probate. An Austin estate planning attorney can explain the benefits of each in detail, including:

  • Joint Tenancy and Tenancy by the Entirety – You can add a joint tenant with rights of survivorship to your assets. This allows your property to transfer to them when you die without going through probate.
  • Beneficiary Designations – Adding a Transfer on Death or Pay on Death beneficiary designation to your bank account allows an immediate transfer when you die without surrendering your current ownership over the property.
  • Revocable Living Trust – You can create a revocable living trust and manage your assets while alive. Your successor trustee has the authority to manage and distribute your assets upon your death.

The will can become invalid if it doesn’t begin probate within four years. The deceased’s property will be subject to Texas’s intestacy laws and distributed to heirs accordingly.

In Texas, a will must enter probate within four years from the date of the deceased’s death.

The main parties in probate depend on whether the deceased created a will. If there is a will, the executor must notify the named beneficiaries. If there isn’t a will, heirs must go to court to appoint an administrator and decide who can receive the property. Creditors also participate in probate to recover assets for debts, whether there is or isn’t a will.

You don’t have to go through probate if the deceased has no assets to leave to family members.

Contact Our Estate Planning and Probate Attorneys Today for Assistance

Minton, Bassett, Flores & Carsey, P.C., has over 55 years of experience handling estate planning and probate matters for individuals and families in Central Texas. We believe that preparing a well-drafted will and other estate planning documents is vital to protecting your wishes, and we will put our decades of experience to work for you.

If you want to discuss your options for creating an estate plan or probating a deceased family member’s estate, call us today for a confidential consultation with an Austin estate planning lawyer.