Preparing a will is one of the easiest things you can do to have an estate plan and peace of mind. Unfortunately, too many people don’t prepare one and die intestate (without a will). You may not realize that when a person dies without a will, the state decides what happens to their property and children. Our Texas estate planning attorney can help you with this process if you are considering preparing a will.
What Is a Will and Why Should I Have One?
A will is a document recognized by our legal system that tells your loved ones and the courts how you want your estate distributed. There are many benefits to having a will. The first is controlling how your assets and belongings are disposed of. Clearly spelled-out wishes tend to lessen disputes or disagreements between heirs about allocating your property and belongings.
A will also allows you to make decisions about other things that may have significance to you. You can choose a person you trust to be in charge of implementing your will by naming them as the executor or executrix. If you wish to have a particular religious ceremony or burial place, you can specify these details in your will. A will enables you to exclude people from inheritance who may otherwise receive it under the Texas intestacy statute.
You can also specify who you would like to be a guardian for your children if they are minors. This can be particularly important if the other parent is not living or cannot be located at the time of your passing. Giving an “instruction list” in the form of a will can significantly lessen how long it takes for your estate to get through the court system and reduce probate costs.
What Happens When a Person Dies Without a Will?
People who pass without a will are considered “intestate”. Texas law sets forth what happens and who inherits your property when there is no will.
If a person dies without a spouse, the following order of people will inherit their property:
- If the person had children, the estate passes to them or their descendants
- If the person has no children or their children or children’s descendants are not living, the person’s estate passes in equal portions to their father and mother.
- If only their father or mother is living, the estate is divided in half. One half goes to the remaining parent and the other half to their siblings or siblings’ descendants. However, if no siblings or siblings’ descendants are living, then the whole estate goes to the living parent.
- If neither parent is alive, the entire estate passes to siblings or siblings’ descendants.
- If neither parents nor siblings or siblings’ descendants are alive, then an estate can pass to grandparents and/or their descendants, subject to specific rules.
If a person dies with a spouse and has children, the following rules apply:
- The spouse gets one-third, and two-thirds go to their children and the descendants of a child or children
- The spouse receives a life estate in one-third of any land, and two-thirds of interest goes to children and the descendants of a child or children
If a person dies with a spouse and no children, the spouse gets most of the estate, subject to certain rules.
These rules can result in scenarios that may not be what you would have wanted if you had put your intentions to paper. For example, if you are not married but have a significant other, they could be cut out of your estate. If you have no children but are not on good terms with parents or siblings, they may inherit items you would have wanted to give to others.
An estate planning attorney can help you prepare a valid will, and the process can be straightforward.
Consult With an Attorney
Contact our law office today for a free consultation if you have questions about preparing a will or how estate planning works.