News & opinion Episode #5: Probate and Estate Planning

Episode #5: Probate and Estate Planning

For this episode of the Breaking Down The Law Podcast we’re joined by Roxanne Ghobrial, a Probate and Guardianship lawyer in Houston, Texas.  She’s joined by Breaking Down The Law Podcast host, Ashley Rodriguez.

During today’s episode we will be discussing the questions that often come up during Probate and Estate planning.

  • What does probate mean?
  • What if my parents pass away and leave me a house? What if I want to sell it , or keep it, what if there is a mortgage on it?
  • What if my siblings and I don’t agree?
  • How do we protect ourselves from the unexpected?
  • What if the will is 30 years old?
  • What about bank accounts, how do we handle those?

Roxanne and Ashley discuss all of these points, so we hope you’ll join us for this episode! You can learn more about Roxanne by visiting her online at

Stay tuned for the next installment of the Breaking Down The Law Podcast with Stewart J Guss and Ashley Rodriguez!

Contact Us: 281-783-3934 or  [email protected]

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Transcript [This transcript was created using an automated transcription service and may contain errors]

Intro : 0:09

Breaking down the law, Breaking down the law, a podcast hosted by attorneys and legal specialists discussing everyday law and how it affects regular people, regular people. Let’s break down the law with our host Stewart Guss and Ashley Rodriguez. They have the inside scoop on everything legal and newsworthy.

Ashley Rodriguez : 0:34

Hey everyone, this is Ashley and welcome to breaking down the law. We have a special guest with us today.

Roxanne Ghobrial : 0:41

Hi, I’m Roxanne Ghobrial with the Ghobrial real law firm.

Ashley Rodriguez : 0:45

What kind of law do you practice Roxanne?

Roxanne Ghobrial : 0:48

I am a probate and guardianship attorney in Houston, Texas and I work all over Texas. Oh, that’s awesome.

Ashley Rodriguez : 0:56

So explain if someone didn’t know what probate meant?

Roxanne Ghobrial : 1:01

That’s a great question. And people ask me that all the time. probate mainly deals with planning for the inevitable or dealing with the inevitable. And when people pass away, sometimes things are in order. And sometimes things aren’t in order and everything in between. And so I help out families loved ones and deal with the situation.

Ashley Rodriguez : 1:26

Yeah, that has to be a hard situation for people and for them to have that guidance during that time that it you know, it’s just the unknown.

Roxanne Ghobrial : 1:34

It is and I just really enjoy being with them and helping them and listening, you know, to their stories and guiding them through all these kinds of situations, especially when there’s unknown out there like a house, bank accounts and bond. Exactly.

Ashley Rodriguez : 1:54

So what happens like if my parents were to pass away and they left me like a house, what do I do after that?

Roxanne Ghobrial : 2:02

Well, if your parents passed away, and there’s a house, and you want to, for example, sell it, because you’re not living in it, then you could go to a title company, you can try to sell it. Sometimes it works. And then sometimes the title company will say, well, there’s a few matters that have to be taken care of before you can sell the house. And sometimes you’ll need to get a probate attorney. And like I said, sometimes you won’t, it just depends on every situation.

Ashley Rodriguez : 2:31

And what if I wanted to keep the house but I have to just transfer it into my name or?

Roxanne Ghobrial : 2:37

You know, a lot of people would just naturally stay in the house, it’s the parents house. And, you know, it’s better to get it transferred into your name, especially if the house belongs to you, you know, for property tax reasons, for all kinds of reasons and so, I recommend that, that you do that. And I recommend you do it sooner than later. Because, you know, there could be an issue with a sibling, there could be an issue with a mortgage. I mean, so many things can pop up, and you just want to secure yourself.

Ashley Rodriguez : 3:18

Yes. So what happens if there still is a mortgage on the house?

Roxanne Ghobrial : 3:22

If there is a mortgage, then I think it would be best most of the time to get a probate attorney because, you know, assuming the mortgage isn’t in your name, assuming the mortgage is in someone else’s name. It’s not likely that the mortgage company is going to talk to you without some type of legal paperwork that shows that they have authority to talk to you. And you know, a lot of times that’s just gonna involve some type of probate proceeding. And of course, you don’t want the payments to go into default, because then you might be looking at foreclosure.

Ashley Rodriguez : 4:00

Yeah. Have you ever had like an issue where siblings don’t agree on selling it or keeping it?

Roxanne Ghobrial : 4:09

Yes, I have dealt with that throughout the years. And in so many situations, you know, sometimes they all want to sell sometimes they all want to keep it and then sometimes the ones living there, and the ones who are not living there, want it sold, but the one who lives there wants to keep it. And so then that situation can get a little sticky. You know, if there’s a mortgage, who’s gonna pay the mortgage, you know, who’s gonna pay the property taxes, who’s gonna pay for the upkeep, you know, that that gets there can be some friction. There can be some uncomfortable feelings between siblings when those things happen, and that is kind of that last thing you want at that time, you know. right and then your grieving and it’s just, it’s just stressful. And, you know, usually when an attorney gets involved and letters start getting sent out, you know, maybe a family meeting and things can get situated with Spark, but sometimes it doesn’t.

Ashley Rodriguez : 5:14

So how would that go? Like, if like, you don’t, there’s no will. And so then you kind of just get stuck with that little sibling rivalry and you’re like, What do I do? There’s no will like, how do I, how do I protect like I’ve been living here for 15 years?

Roxanne Ghobrial : 5:32

Well, if there’s not a will, and if there’s some disagreements about what to do, with, for example, the home I would definitely recommend at least speaking to an attorney, because, you know, you’re gonna have to look at title you’re gonna have to look at, you know, who have what interest in this property because if it’s a blended family, with the House purchased by your mother before she married your stepfather, you know, vice versa. Did they buy it together? Yes. It may not even belong to if you have a stepbrother living in the house, but it was your mom’s house before your mom married his dad. Yeah, it may be your mom separate property. So it doesn’t even belong to this person, isn’t it?

Ashley Rodriguez : 6:25


Roxanne Ghobrial : 6:27

So it can get tricky, especially with blended families.

Ashley Rodriguez : 6:30

Yeah. What else like we do find a will and it’s like 30 years old. They They even made it even before she got remarried.

Roxanne Ghobrial : 6:40

Or before, you know,

Ashley Rodriguez : 6:42

she had kids.

Roxanne Ghobrial : 6:44

You know, yeah, started having children. You know, and it happens and a lawyer would just need to look at the will and if it complies with Texas law, great. I have probated many, many wills. That were very, very old. A lot of them were not even executed in Texas, because people know a lot. And again, along as it meets some basic requirements. It should be very doable, very profitable. But it needs to be looked at. Yes. So and it’s usually like, nine times out of 10 it’s usually a lot less expensive. There’s a will.

Ashley Rodriguez : 7:27

Hmm. So how would someone go about like, cuz I think a lot of people don’t think about it, like, especially younger people, you know, I’m only 34. So I don’t I haven’t really thought about it a lot, really. But I do have it now. I’m recently a single mom. So how would I go about protecting myself and my kids? I’m like, Well, I don’t have a lot of assets like I have guardianship set up. But I mean,

Roxanne Ghobrial : 7:52


Ashley Rodriguez : 7:53

What is you know one of those things for people to protect themselves for the unexpected.

Roxanne Ghobrial : 7:58

Well, in your situation, which I think is a very common situation. And so it applies to many people these days. Whatever assets you you do have, if you can start a file, have a trusted person, your lawyer, your best friend, your mom, whoever you trust, you just know where your file is so that they know number one, where to go if something happens to you, that they know where your information is at. So that’s number one. Number two, you mentioned guardianship, you have minor children, that that’s great that you have some paperwork designating a guardian for your children. If your children are, for example, older and you just have, for example, a house and some bank accounts, you know, there’s a possibility where you don’t even need a will. You could just start designating beneficiaries. Texas has something great now it’s called a transfer on death deed. And that has been utilized a lot. Especially let’s say you don’t have mortgage, you have a house. If you file a transfer on death deed, then it is what it says it is it transfers on your death. And so there’s just a lot of, and again, I’m just being general. But yes, I enjoy talking to people about their situation. Now, I believe everyone has a unique situation, and talking about what their desires are, you know, what do you want? What do you want to happen? And then just going over options, because we have lots of options.

Ashley Rodriguez : 9:45

Yes. So we talked about this 30 year old will would you recommend that you need to revisit that every 10 years or is it major life changes, you know, because people I think even if they do it, it’s one of those things one and done and then a lot can change.

Roxanne Ghobrial : 10:00

I agree it’s usually it’s usually one and done. And so I do recommend major life changes, check checking in with your lawyer just just to see if any laws have changed. You know, definitely buy every 10 years. I mean, just pull it out to number one, make sure you know where it is. Number two, remind yourself what it says. So, so good. Yes, you’re exactly right. major life changes, you know, minimum once every 10 years, maybe once every five years is better.. Every year, okay. I mean, I have if people follow me want to go over there, there will, I’m happy to. I think it’s great.

Ashley Rodriguez : 10:53

So let’s say what about like banks and transferring money after you know, most people have tons of bank accounts and so I, well they just transfer it What if a bank won’t talk to you? What do you do in those situations?

Roxanne Ghobrial : 11:09

Let’s say your mother or your father passed away, and they’ve designated you as a beneficiary, on the bank account. Generally, that’s an easy process. Assuming everything’s in order, and you have the death certificate and that kind of thing. If you go to a bank, and you’re just hitting a wall, they’re not talking to you. A lot of times that means either there’s not a beneficiary designated or it may not be the person you thought it was. So it’s if you speak with an attorney and the attorney should be able to guide you in that situation. It may require a probate proceeding through court. And when you originally asked me you know what that was as it involves different things for different situations. But ultimately, if you do go to court and open up a probate proceeding, the main purpose generally is to receive court documentation, which allows you to communicate with the mortgage company with the financial institution, you know, with this company with that company. And so that’s, that’s one of the main reasons that people go through probate it enables them to communicate and have access to assets.

Ashley Rodriguez : 12:35

Yeah, especially if someone hadn’t looked at that will in 30 years. right. And ultimately, if someone did a will, you know, we want to fulfill their their wishes. So what is the number one tip that you would give anyone to plan for their, you know, the ultimate, you know, we don’t want to think about but you know, what happens? So what would be thatnumber one tip that you would give someone.

Roxanne Ghobrial : 13:04

I recommend someone, if you have, whether you have a car and $500 in a bank account, you know, or, you know, 500 cars that you know and millions in a bank account, I recommend, do speak with an attorney and knowledgeable attorney about what you would like to happen during certain situations in your life. And if someone has a car and $500 in their bank account, maybe they don’t need a well, maybe they just need to have a beneficiary on their bank account. And then maybe someone there. Their life is just very complicated. They have lots of mortgages, they have loans, they have this and that where it’s just necessary to have that court paperwork when they pass away to communicate with you know, all different institutions. So it’s just your situation, everyone’s situation is very different. It’s best to talk to a knowledgeable attorney to get it right for your loved ones. So that it’s not just a big mess. I mean, imagine someone owns a restaurant, you know, or, you know, some type of company where you have employees, and then the owner passes away and nothing’s in place. It’s extremely, extremely stressful. And then, you know, what about the employees? And what about the business accounts versus the personal accounts?

Ashley Rodriguez : 14:30

Yeah, and it’s just that thing of like protecting your loved ones, because they’re already going to be grieving and going through so much.

Roxanne Ghobrial : 14:36

Exactly, exactly. They’re going to be grieving. We never know what’s going to happen. day to day, minute to minute.

Ashley Rodriguez : 14:45

Exactly, especially the world we’re living in now.

Roxanne Ghobrial : 14:48

Right. Exactly. Very true.

Ashley Rodriguez : 14:51

So Roxanne, if someone had questions and they wanted to reach out to you to talk about their unique situation. How would they do that?

Roxanne Ghobrial : 15:02

They’re Welcome to call me. My office number is 713 800 6800. And my law firm is the Ghobrial law firm and my website is That’s GHOBRIAL Well, that is great. So y’all definitely reach out to Roxanne if you have any questions and, you know, plan for your future because you never know what could happen and thank you for listening. Okay, thank you so much, Ashley.

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