Regardless of what property you have on hand, you should have a will. A will helps your loved ones avoid the need for a court to determine who your heirs are, which can save your family months and thousands of dollars when they need it most.
In Texas, a will is not in effect until testimony is taken in open court and a judge signs an order admitting the will to probate. A will cannot be probated until the person who made the will has passed away. Every Texas will is written for the purpose of being presented to a court and admitted to probate.
A will can be admitted to probate for title purposes only, without the appointment of a personal representative, and without an estate administration. Estate administration is necessary when the deceased was involved in ongoing litigation or left debts not secured by an interest in real property (practically any debt other than a mortgage).
Texas allows for independent administration, which typically does not entail the rampant costs and delays of probate which residents of other states must deal with. Contested probate, however, is litigation, and litigation is always a long and costly process. The easiest way to avoid a nightmare probate in Texas is to leave a will and a family that gets along.
The biggest advantage to administering an estate in Texas is subjecting the decedent's creditors to the probate claims process. Millions of dollars in debt owed by decedent's estates are wiped away by the Texas probate process each year.
Probate can be avoided by making beneficiary designations on certain accounts and assets, placing all other assets in trust, or by otherwise leaving no probate assets on hand when you pass away. An attorney can advise you on how to avoid probate if this is the best approach to the settlement of your estate.