No one wants to contemplate their own demise which is probably a reason why some individuals never get around to writing and finalizing a last will and testament. Wills are the most basic document when it comes to estate planning and provide a foundation upon which the rest of your planning can stand. It leaves behind a written and notarized record of how and when you wish your property and assets to be distributed to your heirs and beneficiaries.
So what happens when you pass away without having written a will in Texas? What happens is you will have died “intestate,” meaning without a will and your estate will be subject to Texas laws on how your property should be distributed. This means a probate judge will decide who gets what and when after any debts and other liabilities of the estate are handled first.
What is your “property” in this context? It is everything you owned at the time of death, including homes, other real estate, bank accounts, investments, vehicles, jewelry, personal belongings, and more. Who will be considered your heirs will depend on the laws of intestate succession and other circumstances, such as if you were single or married and had any children. Property is generally distributed to a surviving spouse. If you were single but had children, they will be the most likely to receive distribution. If you died without a spouse or children, other relatives may receive your property such as grandchildren, parents, siblings, and other extended family. If no next of kin exist, your estate may go to the State of Texas.
What If You Had Minor Children?
If you had minor children at the time of your passing, their interests may also be decided by the court. The court may have to make a decision as to a guardianship for the child without your input as to whom you would have preferred. In most cases, a family member may volunteer to raise the child. If more than one volunteers, the judge will have to decide based on what each party presents to the court. Without having known you, the parties involved, or previous family dynamics, this could be a very difficult decision on an incredibly vital matter. In the matter of minor children, having named a person whom you would wish to act as guardian is essential.
Other Considerations Regarding Your Will
When it comes to expenses pertaining to your probate, dying intestate can leave your estate open to family members or other interested parties contesting one another that will lead to time-consuming and expensive litigation. This will only drag out the proceedings and potentially reduce available monies that will go instead to court costs and legal fees.
A will provides clarity so that your heirs understand your desires as to how you want your estate handled in your absence. This can go a long way in reducing conflict among family members and ensuring a smooth transition.
Ready to Discuss Your Need for a Will?
If you need a will or wish to explore other estate planning tools as well in Katy or the Houston area, reach out to Hunt Law Firm, PLLC. We have helped countless individuals and couples draft and finalize a last will and testament as well as comprehensive estate plans involving trusts, guardianships, Powers of Attorney, and more. Ensure that your family’s stress and costs are reduced when you pass on with well-executed documentation that will protect your wishes and their interests.
Reach out to Hunt Law Firm, PLLC at (832) 781-0320 to learn more about how we can help today.