As we reported recently, establish a valid last will & testament holds the top spot on CNN Money’s 10 Steps to Estate Planning. Yet as many as two-thirds of adults lack a valid will.
An experienced will lawyer at Bertolino LLP can help assess your estate-planning needs and assist in getting your affairs in order. In most cases, executing a valid will serves as the foundation of a client’s estate plans.
Americans value freedom and Texans are more independent than most. But to understand what it means to die without a will is to understand that failure to create one is not an act of independence, but rather an acquiescence to the powers of the state. To die with a valid will is to die ‘testate.’ While those who die without a valid will die ‘intestate.’
When one dies intestate, assets are distributed in accordance with statutory formula, and without regards to the wishes of the deceased.
Texas Probate Code: Distribution of Assets in Intestate Estates
Single w/No Children: Estate passes to parent. If one parent deceased, estate passes to remaining parents and siblings, nieces or nephews. Estates without parents or siblings, or descendants of siblings, state is equally divided and passed to relatives on mother’s and father’s side (including grandparents or extended relatives). If no next of kin is identified, estate passes to the State of Texas.
Single w/Children: Assets pass the descendants – children and grandchildren.
Married: Spouse inherits all community property. However, in cases where a decedent has children from a former spouse, surviving spouse receives one-half interest in community property and children receive a one-half interest. A spouse may also be forced to share a decedent’s personal and real property, though she may benefit from a life estate (right to use the property until death) under the law.
Here are some things to consider in preparing for an appointment to discuss your will:
- Identify heirs.
- Identify and list assets, present values and other relevant information. Gather necessary documentation.
- Those with minor children should consider guardianship issues.
- Who should make important health decisions on your behalf? What if your spouse or designated person in unable or unavailable?
- Tax and real estate documents. Estate and gift taxes often consume significant portions of unplanned or poorly planned estates.
- Health insurance, long-term care insurance, health care insurance policies.
Proper estate planning may also include trust formation, which can drastically reduce tax consequences and skirt the lengthy and public probate court process. Having a valid will may also make it less likely that someone contests the estate. Under Texas law, any “interested” person can contest a will, including heirs, named beneficiaries, spouses, or others with property claims against the estate. Texas estates are typically contested on one of several common grounds, including Will revocation, lack of testamentary capacity, lack of due execution, undue influence, fraud or mistake.
At Bertolino LLP, we take seriously the responsibility that comes with planning and administering your estate and understand what it takes to defend the rights of heirs throughout the probate court process.
Contact Bertolino LLP at 512-717-5432 or visit https://www.belolaw.com to schedule a consultation with an experienced will lawyer today.