Probate -Probate is the process a deceased person's estate may go through in order for the heirs to receive assets of the estate. It is possible to probate an estate with or without a will. The estate code specifies methods to accomplish this in the courts.

Assets- Assets are any property owned that has monetary value, such as cash or bank accounts, vehicles, household furnishings, and real property.

Decedent-The person who died. The terms "deceased" and "decedent" are used interchangeably in these documents.

Estate- The property that belonged to the decedent. See Texas Estates Code chapter 22.012.

Exempt property- Some property in a deceased person’s estate is exempt from forced sale under the state constitution or Texas state laws (Texas Property Code section 42.002a) to pay debts, including any allowance paid in place of that property.

Family allowance- The Texas Estates Code allows for payment of a family allowance sufficient for the maintenance of the decedent’s surviving spouse, minor children, and adult incapacitated children for one year from the date of the decedent’s death. The amount of the family allowance is set by court order.

Intestate- When someone dies without a Will, it is referred to as dying "intestate".  They have not declared where their "estate" (property) will go.

Intestate succession- How the courts determine to which relatives the property is distributed to when someone dies without a will.

Liabilities- Liabilities are the debts owed by the deceased at the time of his or her death.

Personal representative- A personal representative is someone authorized to take actions on behalf of the deceased person's estate. The term "personal representative" can include an executor, an estate administrator, or a successor estate administrator.

Separate Property- Separate property is property owned before marriage; property owned after a final divorce decree; or property acquired by gift or inheritance. It must be distinguished from community property, which is any property acquired during marriage other than by gift or inheritance. Click here for a guide to what can happen with a spouse’s property when the spouse dies.

Power of Attorney- A power of attorney allows someone to act on your behalf or in place of yourself.  A Medical Power of Attorney is drafted to specifically address Medical issues, while a Durable Power of Attorney addresses financial and/ or property issues.

Trust- A Trust can be set up in many ways to accomplish various goals.  One way they are used is to have a third party (a Trustee) manage assets for one or more beneficiaries.

Trustee- The person or entity in charge of the assets in a Trust. While you are alive, you may act as Trustee. For married couples, either one or both spouses may act as Trustee or co-Trustees. The successor Trustee is an individual or corporation fiduciary whom you designate to be in charge of your Trust in the event of disability or upon death.

Will- A legally enforceable declaration of how a person wishes his or her property to be distributed after death. In a Will, a person can also recommend a guardian for his or her children.