What Happens if I Die Without a Will?
When someone dies without a will, the die intestate. The practical effect of an intestate estate is that the state laws will apply to inheritance instead of passing the estate as directed in the will.
TEXAS INHERITANCE LAWS - The Laws of Descent and Distribution
In Texas, intestate succession can be simple or complicated depending on your personal situation. If you are married (just once) with children that are born of the marriage and no other children, and ALL of your property is community property, then your estate will probably pass how you think it will: first to your wife and then to your children.
However we live in the modern world and people have many different situations in life. For example, many people are getting married later and acquire significant separate property prior to marriage. If you have separate property that only belongs to you, then it won't all go to your spouse. Also, if there are children from a previous marriage, then the law actually protects those children by allowing the children to completely inherit the deceased parent's share of community property. In fact, the scenarios have become so complicated that practitioners like myself use charts to figure out who will inherit, like this chart from the Harris County Probate Court No. 1.
Not only that, there are many reasons why you do not want your heirs to receive their share of the estate immediately, so a system of wills and trusts would be preferable. For example, if your child is a minor or even a young adult, you do not want them to directly inherit any assets and setting up a court ordered trust to manage their money might take a long time and cost a lot of money. In addition, if your child or spouse is qualified for Medicaid (the medical insurance program for poor Americans) then by giving them an inheritance out of a trust, it could kick them off of Medicaid until all of their assets are spent down. It could cause a lot of problems in the future.
In addition, I tell my clients that dying without a will for lawyers is a "pay me now or pay me later" situation. My typical straightforward intestate probate with a full administration will START at around $6,000 and will take a minimum of 12 months to finish. If there are any hiccups or complications, it will take longer and cost more money. As I said previously, a straightforward estate with a will usually costs around $3,000 to probate and will take around 6 months to settle from start to finish.
In my opinion, the only person who benefits from dying without a will are the attorneys who get more money to probate an intestate estate! The only way to reduce costs to the estate and to ensure that your loved ones receive their inheritance how you want them to receive it is by having a will.
If you are ready to protect your loved ones by drafting your will, you can call Chiang Law Firm at 713-568-9206 to set up an appointment to talk to an attorney today!