Estate Planning 101

Part Two

Part two of this blog series touches on wills and testaments. 

Wills are important. They insure your final wishes are implemented.  Having a will is not just for the wealthy as many believe.  It is often presumed that everything will automatically go to their spouse in the event of their death.  This is not always the case. In the state of Texas, if you die without a will, your estate will automatically transfer to your next of “blood” kin.  In other words:

  • If you are single w/o children – your entire estate will transfer to your sibling(s), parents, or nieces and nephews depending on the statute.
  • If you are single w/children – your children will inherit your estate.  If they are underage, they could be sent to live with their nearest blood relative and that person would be in charge of their inheritance until they are of age.
  • If you are married w/o children – your spouse will inherit the community property (what you have acquired as a married couple), and your next of kin (sibling, parent, etc.) would receive your personal property (things you acquired before marriage or solely in your name depending on the statute).
  • If you are married w/children – your spouse would receive the community property and only receive one-third of your separate personal property and a life estate (the right to use the property until his or her death).  The remainder would be inherited outright by the children of the deceased.
  • If you are married w/o children – your spouse would be entitled to the community property and your entire personal property, but if the deceased has siblings or parents, the surviving spouse is only entitled to half of the personal property.  The remainder would be passed off to the parents, siblings, or decedents of siblings as set forth by the statute.

As you can see, dispersing of one’s property is not as cut and dry as we would like to believe.  It really is in your loved ones best interest to have a decree in place so there is no confusion or conflict. If you would like research further, click on the link for a more thorough explanation: Texas Estate Codes.

A will and testament allows you to name a guardian for your children if the other parent is unfit or deceased, how long you wish to remain on life support (if at all), how you want your remains to be handled, and of course who or what will receive any personal property or money.

It is best to consult with a qualified attorney.  Estate attorneys are well versed in the state’s laws regarding community and personal property and can make recommendations if you decide to set up a trust for your heirs or for handling complicated business or personal issues. 

If your instructions are fairly cut and dry, there are websites and software options that make it easy to do it yourself for a fraction of the cost.  Legal Zoom and Quicken WillMaker Plus are two highly rated do-it-yourself will and testament options.

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