What do President Abraham Lincoln and Texas billionaire Howard Hughes have in common ? If you guessed they died without a will, you would be right. Today, 60-75% of Texans die without a will, a legal concept called “dying intestate”. Intestacy forces the real and personal property of a Texas resident to pass to individuals based on whom the Texas legislature believes should receive the decedent’s estate upon death.
Why do Texas residents die intestate i.e. without a will ? One reason people think they do not need a Texas will is that they own very little property. Yet even if you own little property, you should employ a San Antonio and greater Texas wills and estates attorney to develop a simple will. If you have children, as the surviving parent, you can choose who will be the guardian, rather than leaving that decision to the court. In addition, even if you have a small estate now, at the the time of death, you may have a sizeable estate (ex. inheritance or lottery). In some cases, if you die as a result of someone’s negligence, your estate could have a wrongful death action against a drunk driver or auto manufacturer.
There is no question that sometimes a will may require considerable time and effort, because you will need to gather information and documentation. You will also have to reveal personal information including such issues as children born out of wedlock, property assessments, medical conditions like cancer or AIDS, and family issues like marital problems.
We will explore issues of individual property distribution (unmarried intestate) and the distribution of community and separate property (married intestate) in future blog entries. In the meantime, consider consulting with a San Antonio or greater Texas estate planning lawyer to either draw up a will or update a will that may need to be modified if there has been a new event in your life.