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Myth #2: Having a will eliminates the need for probate

Welcome back to our series on the Top 25 Misconceptions About Texas Probate. Today, we're diving into a common myth number 2: that having a will eliminates the need for probate. Let's get to the truth.

Many people believe once they've drafted a will, their estate will automatically bypass the probate process. However, this is not the case, especially here in Texas. While having a will is an essential part of estate planning, it doesn't avoid probate. Instead, it guides the probate process.

Here's why: Probate is the court-supervised procedure of authenticating the deceased person's will, assessing the estate, paying off debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the beneficiaries. The will serves as a roadmap for how the deceased wanted their assets distributed, but it still requires court validation to ensure its authenticity and that the wishes are lawfully carried out. I frequently say that a will is just a piece of paper until a judge says that it isn’t and that is the truth.

Without probate, there's no legal authority to transfer ownership of the deceased's assets to their beneficiaries, even if the will clearly outlines the deceased's wishes. This is a crucial step in protecting the rights of beneficiaries and ensuring the estate is distributed according to the deceased's wishes. Moreover, probate also provides a formal process for settling any disputes that may arise over the will or estate, ensuring creditors are paid, and all financial obligations are settled before the assets are distributed.

So, while drafting a will is a critical step in planning for the future, it's just the beginning. Understanding the role of probate can help you better prepare for what's ahead and ensure a smoother transition for your loved ones.