Texas is a better state than some when it comes to estate taxes, but a last will and testament in any state will inevitably cost heirs some money due to probate expenses. Probate is the process in which a judge makes decisions about the distribution of assets per the instructions in the will, but this only happens after interested parties are given an opportunity to contest the will. Interested parties include beneficiaries of the will, family of the decedent and creditors owed money by the decedent.

Probate court can take months or even years to complete, even if no one contests the will. Not all assets must go through probate court, however. Retirement accounts or other assets that allow people to name beneficiaries can typically go directly to the beneficiaries without probate. Other assets that generally avoid probate are those that are passed on through a living trust fund.

When someone creates a living trust fund, that person names a trustee to distribute the assets in the trust at a time dictated by the creator of the trust, known as a trustor. A trustee can be given discretion with the distribution of assets, or the trustee can be instructed to distribute assets at various intervals. Using a trust saves court costs and attorneys’ fees incurred in connection with probate, and it also keeps the assets from becoming a matter of public record.

Trusts offer many benefits, but they may take a greater effort to set up initially. Whether a person sets up a will or a trust, that person should review how his or her properties are titled and listed in the legal documents to ensure that there is no confusion. An estate planning and probate attorney may help draft a will or create a trust in accordance with a client’s goals.