There is a common phrase that says, “the days are long but the years are short.” While this phrase was not created with estate planning in mind, the sentiment runs true: people talk about drafting an estate plan but rarely do so over time. However, it is never too early to start a Houston estate plan, especially with the unexpected occurrences that happen in life. And without an estate plan—or by making common estate planning mistakes—families can become dysfunctional and loved ones may show hostility to one another. Below are two common estate planning mistakes that must be avoided to avoid family infighting after a person’s death.
Not Having a Will in Place
Not having a will in place at the time of a person’s death is the worst estate planning mistake that can be made. Families will face dramatic consequences and uncertainty if a loved one dies without a will. A will is the place to express a person’s wishes for how their assets will be handled after their death—without this document, it is called dying “intestate.” This means Texas law—as interpreted by a probate court judge—will determine who receives the person’s assets, regardless of their personal relationship. This may lead to family fighting where one person, who may be genetically but not personally close to the deceased, receives an inheritance and others do not. All of these issues could be resolved by drafting a will.
Not Appointing an Executor of the Estate Plan
While a will specifies a person’s wishes, an executor of the estate plan is necessary to enact these wishes. An executor handles most of the administrative tasks required in an estate plan: they distribute the estate’s assets to the specified beneficiaries, pay any debts the deceased may have, and file the final tax returns. However, if a will does not list an executor, it will lead to a much more complicated and emotionally fraught process. Beneficiaries will not receive their assets in a timely manner and loved ones will have to go to court to see who a judge names the executor. While a spouse or other close loved one is generally named the executor in these situations, this entire process can be avoided if an executor is named in the estate plan.