Life happens, we get it. Therefore, most individuals put off estate planning. However, there are major downsides when this is avoided for too long and they unexpectedly pass away. When someone dies without a will, it is called dying intestate. There are many consequences dying intestate in Texas, including that the decedent does not get to choose who will receive their assets— their funds, property, and items. Because there are benefits to drafting an estate plan and ensuring one does not die intestate, below are examples of the dangers of intestate property and resolution to this issue.
What Problems Can Arise from Not Having an Estate Plan?
When someone dies without a will, they do not have the ability to decide who will receive their possessions. This occurred to famous artist Henry Darger, whose family entered into a long-drawn-out legal battle. When Darger died without a will in place, his landlords—who helped bring notoriety to his art—had ownership of his pieces of art, some of which have been appraised at close to $800,000. Now, long-lost relatives of Darger have filed a lawsuit, arguing they are the rightful beneficiaries of his property. The landlords are arguing that Darger told them that they could keep or discard his possessions.
This situation arose because Darger did not have a will in place. If he had made it abundantly clear who he hoped to receive his art, then a lawsuit could have been avoided, saving the estate and all involved tens of thousands of dollars. Now, a court will have to decide who receives Darger’s art—whether his relatives according to intestate laws, or the landlords because Darger told them so.
Who Will Receive My Assets if I Die Intestate?
Intestate laws vary depending on the state—this makes it even more critical to create an estate plan. In Texas, the individual, or individuals, who receive the deceased’s assets depend on whether they have living children and if they are married. If the deceased has children and no spouse, then the children inherit everything; if they have a spouse but no children, then the spouse inherits all of their assets. On the other hand, if the deceased had both a spouse and children, the spouse inherits 1/3 of the deceased’s property and the children inherit everything else. However, this also largely differs based on the type of property owned at death. Texas is a community property state, however there are instances where separate property will be treated differently than community.
When the decedent does not have a spouse or children, the situation becomes even more complicated. Or when a child predeceased the decedent and had their own children.
Even if an individual would give all of their assets to the person who will receive them under Texas intestate laws, it is still critical to have an estate plan in place to reduce uncertainty and the chance of legal battles among family members. Experienced estate planning attorneys can help with this process.
Contact a Houston Estate Planning Attorney
If you need assistance in crafting an estate plan, or if you just lost a loved one with or without a will, contact the Houston probate and estate planning attorneys at McCulloch & Miller, PLLC. We have decades of experience working with a diverse set of clients to meet their estate planning and elder law needs. This means we are able to answer any questions you may have and work with you to develop the right estate plan. To speak with one of our knowledgeable attorneys and to schedule a consultation, give us a call today at 713-333-8900.