When you die without a Will in Wichita Falls, obviously it doesn’t affect you because you are gone. But the bad news is you could potentially leave your family with a mess. When someone dies without a will, that is known as dying “intestate,” and when that happens, you typically leave your family with a confusing and expensive headache rather than allowing them to make a smooth transition to life without you and proper time to grieve.
Three Consideration to Decide Whether You Need a Will
Obviously dying without a Will means you didn’t leave a Will and therefore, didn’t leave any instructions about how to pass along your assets when you’re gone. This means that these decisions are governed by the laws of the state of Texas. Unfortunately, these laws, called succession laws, often don’t match peoples’ real desires.
To begin, we need to consider some basic Texas inheritances laws, so you can determine whether you need or want a Will.
1. Determine what assets are covered with a Will.
Wills have to go through probate, so whatever assets are covered by your Will are the assets that will be governed by Texas inheritance laws.
Probate is the legal process by which a probate court identifies a person’s assets, pays their debts, and distributes their assets according to the Will if there is one, or according to the Texas inheritance laws if there isn’t. The probate process can last anywhere from a few weeks to years depending on the circumstances surrounding your case.
Any assets you have that have a named beneficiary such as a life insurance policy or retirement account, does not have to go through probate and automatically passes to the named individual.
2. Determine the Texas inheritance laws for the assets you have and your situation.
Now that you know what assets will be governed by Texas inheritance laws, you need to determine whether those laws fit your desires. Texas had different rules for how different types of assets are to pass to your heirs. For example, the rules are different for separate and community property as well as for personal property and real estate.
Texas is a state that recognizes community property, which means that property that is acquired during marriage is usually owned by both spouses. However, there are exceptions to this rule and sometimes, even separate property could be subject to reimbursement claims from community estate beneficiaries.
There are several reasons why you might not want an heir to inherit directly from your estate:
- If any of your heirs are minors
- If any of your heirs are on public benefits (receiving your inheritance could cause them to lose their benefits)
- If multiple heirs are going to inherit one piece of real estate, making the management of the property difficult.
3. Understand probate and its implications.
Understand the probate process and consider how difficult it will be for your loved ones to go through. Probate can be an expensive, time-consuming, and draining process. But a Will can make this process much simpler and easier.
As stated above, probate can be a lengthy, expensive, and time-consuming process. It can be confusing and draining for people to go through, especially when they need to be focused on grieving. Without a Will, this process is even more strenuous, consisting of two additional court proceedings.
First, there’s a court proceeding to determine who the heirs are. But with how busy courts are, this could take months. And any disputes that come up could cause further delays.
Second, after the heirs are determined, the court begins to administer the estate. Without a Will, your heirs may have to take additional steps to support their case and the court may have to oversee review things each step of the way.
Court costs and attorney fees add up quick and cut into the amount that will pass to your heirs.
Main Reasons to Create a Will in Wichita Falls
1. Ensure your assets pass on to the people you want them to go to.
2. Name a guardian to care for your minor children.
3. Ease the burden on your loved ones and make the probate process easier.
Consequence of Dying Without a Will in Wichita Falls
If you don’t have a Will in place to express your desires, the state takes your place and makes those decisions for you. The state doesn’t know your family like you do and the state doesn’t have your family’s best interest in mind. So, unless Texas’s inheritance laws align with your desires, you should ask an attorney about creating an estate plan.
Contact a Wichita Falls Estate Planning Attorney
We’ve seen too often the burden that falls on family members when their loved one dies without a Will in Wichita Falls. By having a plan in place, you ease the burden on your family. If you are interested in getting an estate plan done or just want to get more information, contact us today at 940-569-4000 or fill out a contact form to set up a free, confidential, no-obligation consultation. We’re happy to evaluate your situation and let you know what options work best for you.