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Why Is Having a Will Important in Estate Planning?

Many people procrastinate about making a will because they incorrectly assume that their loved ones will automatically receive their property after they die. In fact, dying intestate (not having a valid will at the time of your death) could leave the people you care most about empty-handed and cost your estate unnecessary expenses. 

A Fort Worth estate planning attorney can answer your questions like, why is having a will important in estate planning, and draft your necessary documents to prevent these problems. 

The State of Texas Decides Who Gets Your Property if You Do Not Have a Will

The probate court will determine who your heirs are based on their relationship to you, but not by how meaningful that relationship was. In other words, every child of yours will get treated the same because of their parent-child relationship with you, even if they had been estranged from you for decades. The only way to tailor who will and will not receive your property is to write a will.

In every case of intestacy, Texas law uses the very same “flow chart” to distribute your assets. Every family is different, so using the same template for every intestate estate could achieve fair results in some cases and grossly unjust results in others. 

Your Loved Ones Might Get Cut Out if You Do Not Have a Will

If the people you care about are not on the Texas distribution chart for intestate estates, they will not receive anything unless you have a will. You might have had a best friend since elementary school, but the state does not recognize people as your heirs unless they are related to you by blood or marriage. 

Even some people related to you by blood or marriage might get cut out if you do not have a will. For example, grandchildren only receive assets from an intestate estate if their parent predeceased them. Also, stepchildren are not heirs for purposes of intestate estates. 

Intestacy Is Expensive

The probate court has to do much more work when administering an intestate estate than it does with an estate that has a will. With a will, the court does not have to determine who will receive your property or identify which of your property is community property and which is separate property, which is real estate, and which is personal property. 

These extra steps mean that it takes longer for the estate to go through probate and for your legal beneficiaries to receive your property. Also, the probate court does not do this extra work for free. Handling an intestate estate is significantly more expensive than handling an estate that had a will. The court costs and fees will get charged to your estate, which means that your heirs will receive less money than they would have if you had created a will.

Assets That Do Not Have to Pass Through the Probate Court

Whether you have a will or not, you can minimize the number of assets that have to get distributed through the probate court by taking a few simple steps ahead of time. If you name a person or an organization as the beneficiary of your life insurance and retirement accounts, the proceeds can pass directly to them without having to go through probate court. If, instead, you leave the beneficiary designation blank or choose your estate to receive the proceeds, the asset will have to go through the probate court.

Also, you can make your bank accounts and investment accounts “payable on death” or “transfer on death” to a person or an organization, like a charity, to let the asset pass outside of probate. You can talk with a Fort Worth estate planning attorney about your options and craft a will or a living trust that meets your needs and goals. Reach out to our office for help with your case.