Articles Tagged with Intestate

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.

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“Do I need a will if I don’t have children?” The answer to this frequently Googled question might surprise you.

Indeed, married couples who do not have any children often think that there is no good reason to have a will in place. They mistakenly assume that a will is not necessary since there is no need to determine how any assets would be divided among children. Instead, these couples rest easy under the mistaken assumption that their property will always go to their spouse in the event of their death.

In reality, Houston couples who do not have children should still have a 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:

Couple holding handsWhen most people think of wills and estate plans, they usually think about the primary function of distributing assets to children. The natural next thought is, if they have no children, then they don't need a will. But estate plans, and especially wills, actually serve a number of important purposes, only one of which is conveying assets to children.

As U.S. News & World Report points out in, "No Kids? You Still Need an Estate Plan," people without children need, at the very least, to have a will if they want to have a say in who gets their assets after they pass away.

People who pass away without a will are said to have died intestate. Every state has a law that determines who gets the assets of people who die intestate. The laws all operate similarly, in that the assets are given to the person's closest living relatives.

WheelbarrowThus far, many people have attempted to establish a link – none have been successful. If no one claims the inheritance in 30 years, the money goes to the British crown.

No will or other estate planning documents could be found for Kathleen Hilda Ryan, who passed away in Greenwhich, United Kingdom in 2013 with an estate valued at $788,000. She had inherited the bulk of it from her sister, Joan.

Kathleen had no children of her own and no living siblings.

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