Why You Need a Will
Wills & Estate Planning
Here, learn how a will can ensure your property, money, and assets are distributed according to your wishes—and who will care for your children under age 18. Without a will, Texas law will determine the distribution of your estate.
What happens if I die without a will?
If you die without a will (die “intestate”), you cannot choose who will inherit your money, real estate, property, belongings, insurance, and retirement benefits (your “estate”). Instead, your estate will be divided according to Texas law. Without a will, your siblings and grandchildren will not likely inherit anything from you. Your estate could be tied up in a lengthy probate process involving a court-appointed attorney, filing fees, and a court hearing—all paid for with money taken out of your estate.
With a will, you get to decide what happens to your property. The person you choose (the “executor”) sees to it that your property is distributed the way you intended.
If I’m married, won’t my property automatically pass to my spouse?
No. Without a will, your estate will be divided under state law depending on whether it is classified as separate or community property.
- Community property is all property acquired by both spouses during the marriage, including all cash, bank accounts, retirement, personal property, and real estate, unless it is considered separate property.
- Separate property is property owned by a spouse before the marriage or acquired during the marriage by one spouse as a gift, an inheritance, or through a personal injury settlement.
If you are married when you die and do not have a will (intestate), your property will be divided as follows:
I have children and I’m not married. Will it go to my children?
Yes. Community property only applies if you are married. If you are not married at the time of death, all your children, born or adopted, in or out of wedlock, will share equally in your estate if paternity is not at issue. You may not want a child better off financially to inherit the same as one who needs more financial help. Without a will, your grandchildren won’t get anything unless your child dies before you. If your child dies, your child’s share will pass to their children (your grandchildren) in equal shares. If you want to leave something to your grandchildren, you should make a will.
I’m not married and have no children. Who will inherit my property?
If both parents are alive, each parent will get half. If both parents are dead, your estate will be divided equally among your siblings. If one parent is alive, that parent will get half, and the remaining half will be divided among your siblings. If none of your siblings survive you, but one parent is still living, that parent takes all.
Who will care for my minor children?
The other parent, if parental rights have not been terminated.
If the other parent is dead (or parents die at the same time), your children will go to the grandparents, but a court may have to decide which set of grandparents will be guardians. In a will, you can name the person(s) you want to be guardians of your children.
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