Estate planning is a very important process but it is not a required one. There are no formal reminders provided by outside authorities about the need for estate planning in most cases, so many people delay creating a will, trust and/or documents that will protect their interests in the event of incapacitation or death.
Those who put off estate planning leave themselves and the people that they love in a relatively vulnerable position. Should anything happen to them while they do not have paperwork in place, their personal wishes will have no bearing on the administration of their estate. Instead, Texas probate laws will determine what happens with their property.
Family members have the right to inherit
When someone dies, their remaining property and assets become their estate (assuming the property and/or assets do not have a named beneficiary). That estate will be subject to intestate succession laws in Texas if there are not enforceable testamentary documents in place at the time of their death. These laws prioritize someone’s closest family relationships. Spouses have strong rights, as Texas is a community property state. Children also have inheritance rights when someone dies without a will. The exact split of property between the children and the surviving spouse will depend on the relationship between the spouse and the children.
If someone dies without a spouse or children, their parents could inherit from their estate. Other family members, including siblings, could also have inheritance rights. In the very rare scenario in which someone does not have any biological or legal family, their property may eventually end up in possession of the state of Texas, but such outcomes are quite uncommon.
Particularly for those who have close relationships with people who are not part of their legal or biological family, advance estate planning is important to protect loved ones and allow property to pass to intended beneficiaries when someone dies. Having an understanding of what will happen if one dies without an estate plan can be a huge incentive for them to finally create a will or other estate planning documents. Should you have questions about estate planning or if you are ready to create your estate plan please contact my office to schedule a consultation.