Can I structure my property purchase to avoid probate?

Q. I have relatively modest land and no family living nearby. How can I find a local bill payment service or bookkeeping company to pay my monthly bills? Who will oversee them? Are there any government agencies to assist seniors in this situation? A large local bank with a bank charges approximately $2,000 to $3,000 annually for this service.

A. The fees you mentioned are quite reasonable given the services provided by the bank’s trust department. This is especially true considering that no one at the bank will steal from you or act in a way that is not in your best interests.

There are bookkeepers you can hire, but be careful. You put a lot of trust in a stranger who has complete access to all your money. It is also very easy to steal your identity. I hope you find it.

I am not aware of any government agency that provides this type of service.

Q. My husband and I are looking to buy a home. I want you to own the property as a co-tenant with the right to live. However, the title company I contacted objected to the property being transferred to us in such a manner. When one of us dies, will the other automatically own the property? It is our goal to have a property that is completely probate-free.

A. Probate is not difficult if you hire an experienced attorney. Unlike many other states, Texas probate he can complete in a month or two, and Texas attorneys charge a percentage fee like in other states. Very rarely.

So you may be stressing out about issues that aren’t really worth worrying about.

When purchasing a house, the seller will transfer the ownership to two people as “joint renters”. After you own the home, the two of you can prepare a death deed by hiring a lawyer (a better approach) or doing it yourself (you may make mistakes). By doing so, you can avoid home probate.

Of course, probate will be required if there is even a single asset that is not automatically inherited upon the death of the first spouse. And if you both died together or in succession before the surviving spouse made proper planning arrangements, probate will be required after both of you have died.

A better way to avoid probate is to use revocable trust. A real estate planning attorney can inform you of the pros and cons.

The information in this column is intended to provide a general understanding of the law and is not legal advice. Ronald Lippman of Lippman & Associates, a law firm in Houston, is board certified in Real Estate Planning and Probate Law by the Texas Legal Professional Commission.Email a question

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