News outlets report that the legendary musician Aretha Franklin, who died in August, 2018, did not have a will (New York Times). Probate disputes often abound in high-profile cases, especially where there is no will. For example, Prince died intestate (without a will), and his estate is rife with infighting among family members, lawyers, and others who claim interests in his music rights. Resolving those complex disputes can take years, and the substantial expense of litigation drains the estate assets.
What Happens if I Die without a Will in Texas?
If you die without a will, the State of Texas will write one for you. That is called “intestate succession”. The Texas statute is lengthy and comprehensive. In descending order of priority, a decedent’s estate will pass first to his spouse and/or children … and so on.
Per a recent Gallup news poll, more than half of U.S. adults do not have a will. Death isn’t a pleasant topic, and it’s tempting to procrastinate. At the Law Office of Jaclyn Y. Roberson, PLLC we understand our clients’ reluctance to address such a sensitive, emotional subject.
Why a Will is Important
In our experience, many want to give away their property differently than per Texas law. For example:
- one child may be wealthier, or another child has unique needs, so the parent wants to give them different amounts
- the decedent may want to give gifts to a neighbor, a girlfriend, university, or a charity
- a spouse may want her surviving husband to receive 100% of her estate
Texas intestacy law does not allow for any of that flexibility. If you want other people or organizations to inherit some of your property, or if you want to decide different proportions of your gifts, you need a will to be sure your wishes are followed.
Your Will is more than about Giving Away Money
Of course, a will’s fundamental is to distribute your property. But a will does more than that. For example, with a properly-drafted will, you can:
- name your personal representative (called an “executor” or “executrix”, depending on if male or female)
- establish trusts for young beneficiaries or children
- name guardians for children and their property
- forgive loans from others
- make your wishes clear, to help reduce family conflicts and heightened emotions (more common with second marriages or divorce)
Why You Should use an Experienced Texas Attorney to Write Your Will
There are dozens (or hundreds) of will-drafting products available on the internet. Although you might be tempted to “do it yourself”, that can be tricky. There’s no assurance a will you write will be legally valid in Texas. Is it properly witnessed? Notarized? Does it comply with Texas statutory requirements?
A well-written, legally binding will does not have to be expensive. In fact, that will give you peace of mind that it’s done right, and will save your estate (and family) significant expense in the future.
The Law Office of Jaclyn Y. Roberson, PLLC is a family law and estate planning firm based in San Antonio serving the citizens of South and Central Texas.