Articles Posted in Will

Getting to Know the Texas Intestate Laws

As we’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, a will is the cornerstone of any Houston estate plan. In a will, a person can determine what will happen with their property. However, not having a will does not mean that someone’s property will end up with the state. Instead, the Texas intestate laws dictate how the property will be distributed.

Texas intestate laws determine how an individual’s property is passed on. Rather than take a look at subjective factors such as close relationships or the deceased’s intentions, the intestate laws look only to the surviving family members of the deceased. This is not necessarily a problem if the deceased has no children, or family members all can agree on what the deceased’s intentions were. However, that is not often the case.

Although creating a will in Texas may not seem vital in the moment, passing away without having a will in place can have major consequences. Intestate succession laws dictate where a person’s assets and property go if they die without a will. There are many rules surrounding intestate succession. While these are only a few, below are commonly asked questions about what happens when a person passes away without a will or estate plan in place.

What Assets Are Impacted by Intestate Succession?

When a person dies without a will, their assets will go to their closest relatives. However, not all assets are affected by intestate succession laws. These non-affected assets include life insurance proceeds, funds in a retirement account, and property jointly owned. For these assets, they will pass onto the surviving co-owner, or named beneficiary, even when there is no will in place.

A last will and testament, or more commonly referred to as a “will,” is a legal document that provides a person with the opportunity to decide how their property and other assets will be distributed after their death. Under Texas law, if a person does not have a will, their belongings will be subject to Texas intestacy laws, which may be contrary to the person’s actual wishes. A legally binding will is an effective way to ensure that a person’s last wishes are appropriately effectuated. Fortunately, Houston probate courts typically work efficiently to ensure that wills are quickly validated and accomplished.

In some cases, a simple will is enough to distribute assets and belongings, but Texas allows wills to include trust directives and tax-planning assistance. Wills can also include the appointment of guardians to children and pets, asset distribution, and help people avoid real-estate complications. In cases where a person does not create a legally binding will, Texas law dictates that their assets and possessions pass through intestate succession laws.

Under Texas’ intestacy law, intestate succession depends on the deceased’s surviving family members. These are the most common scenarios:

Computer security
With COVID-19 impacting more and more Americans, individuals across the country are scrambling to set up wills and end-of-life directives.

Over the last two weeks, online will companies have seen an explosion in users, according to the article, “Coronavirus Pandemic Triggers Rush by Americans to Make Online Wills,” published by CNBC.com.

However, as online wills grow in popularity, Houston estate and elder lawyers increasingly caution against using them, for several reasons.

2.17.20A will and a trust are separate legal documents that typically share a common goal of facilitating a unified estate plan. While these two items ideally work in tandem, since they are separate documents, they sometimes run in conflict with one another–either accidentally or intentionally.

A revocable trust, commonly called a living trust, is created during the lifetime of the grantor. This type of trust can be changed at any time, while the grantor is still alive. Because revocable trusts become operative before the will takes effect at death, the trust takes priority over the will, if there is any discrepancy between the two when it comes to assets titled in the name of the trust or that designate the trust as the beneficiary (e.g., life insurance).

A recent Investopedia article asks “What Happens When a Will and a Revocable Trust Conflict?” The article explains that a trust is a separate entity from an individual. When the grantor or creator of a revocable trust dies, the assets in the trust are not part of the decedent grantor's probate process.

12.18.19Being named as an executor is a big responsibility. Before accepting this role, you should understand what the tasks are, and what you need to be careful about to protect yourself.

It’s flattering. Someone you know thinks highly enough of you to name you as their executor. That means they believe you’re ready and able to do things like settle debts, gather assets, manage estate tax and income tax returns, deal with your family members, distribute the assets and do everything that needs to be done before the estate can be settled.

However, Investopedia’s article from last summer, “5 Surprising Hazards of Being an Executor,” explains that the person named as an executor isn’t required to accept the appointment. Prior to agreeing to act as an executor, you should know some of the hazards that can result, as well as how you can address some of these potential issues, so that being an executor can run smoothly.

12.11.19Once you understand what a will can do, the reason that everyone needs one becomes a lot clearer, especially if you have any minor children or any assets.

A will is a legal document used to provide clear and binding instructions on how you want your assets to be distributed after you die. Everyone should have a will, because they can also be used to identify a person who you want to handle your property, known as the executor and who should be the guardian of your minor children, if both parents die.

Yahoo Finance’s article, “What Does a Last Will and Testament Actually Do?” explains that a last will and testament has instructions for what you want to happen with your assets. A will also designates an executor, names beneficiaries and more. You should work with a qualified estate planning lawyer, when preparing one.

10.31.19At last, you’ve completed your estate documents, including retitling assets and checking beneficiary designations. The only question left is, where should they be stored? The answer is not that simple.

Do you know where your estate plan documents are? Many people ask their estate planning attorneys to hold onto their originals. They feel like this is the best way to prevent the plans from being misplaced, and curious family members won’t be able to see their contents.

Forbes’ recent article, “Keeping Your Estate Planning Documents Safe,” explains that because of the expense of storage and the move to paperless offices, some estate planning attorneys are now having their clients hold the original documents.

8.5.19A will serves several purposes. It gives you the power to distribute your possessions, according to your own wishes. It also lets you name who should take care of your children, if they are minors when you die, and of your pets, if you provide for them in the will.

Just because your wealth isn’t measured in billions, doesn’t mean you don’t need a will. Without one, explains Yahoo Finance’s recent article, “Do You Really Need a Will?” you’ll have no say in what happens once you pass away. There may also be less for your heirs to inherit. There will also be more legal costs and stress.

Each state has laws that pertain to the distribution of a person's estate, if they die without a will. These laws most likely won’t mesh with your personal desires. If you don't have a will, ask yourself why you don't. Perhaps you think you don't need one. However, more than likely you do. If you're putting off starting this important estate planning task, here are some things to consider.

7.23.19Notice that the title is not “if” you need to update a will, but “when.” A will is like the family pet—it can protect the house and demonstrate your love for your family. However, you have to take care of it.

People often comment when they complete their estate planning, that they feel so good to have done this very important task. It’s a great feeling to know that you’ve made the necessary preparations to protect your family and preserve your legacy. However, this is not a one-and-done event.

Thrive Global’s recent article, “7 Reasons Why You Need to Review your Will Right Now,” says it’s extremely important that you regularly update your will to avoid any potential confusion and extra stress for your family at a very emotional time. As circumstances change, you need to have your will reflect changes in your life. As time passes and your situation changes, your will may become invalid, obsolete or even create added confusion, when the time comes for your will to be administered.

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