In a perfect world, estate planning would be straightforward. All decedents would have wills dictating the distribution of their estates, and a court would not have to get involved. Statistics consistently show that 70% of people pass away without doing any estate planning, which leads to probate without a will.
What is probate? What happens and who inherits your estate if you die without a will?
What is Probate?
Probate is the formal process where a court legally recognizes a decedent’s death and authorizes the distribution and management of that decedent’s estate. The goal is to transfer the real estate and personal property of the decedent to their legal heirs.
What Happens if You Die Without Leaving a Will?
Dying without a will is legally referred to as “dying intestate,” which likely means the involvement of a probate court. However, this depends on the size of the estate and the types of property in it. If probate without a will is required, a court will order the distribution of assets to the proper heirs according to the Texas laws of intestacy.
Do I Need to Probate the Estate?
Some assets pass to designated beneficiaries without going through the probate process. Here are some examples of these assets:
- Bank accounts with a payable on death designation.
- Life insurance policies with a designated beneficiary.
- Retirement accounts with designated beneficiaries.
- Transfer on Death Deeds (TODD) allow for the transfer of real estate without probate. However, it is important to speak with an attorney before executing these deeds to ensure they are not irrevocable and are filed properly with the county clerk before you pass.
Where Do I File?
Most probate cases in Texas need to be filed with the county clerk in the county where the decedent resided. Some counties give this jurisdiction to a county court, while some larger counties give this jurisdiction to statutory probate courts. Filing with the correct court is essential to avoid wasted time and money.
Who Inherits Your Estate if You Die Without a Will?
Determining who will inherit property when someone dies intestate is based upon the character of the decedent’s property. Separate property may be distributed differently than community property. Other determining factors are the decedent’s marital status, whether or not they had children, and whether or not those children are also the children of the decedent’s spouse.
Surviving spouses can inherit property and assets, as can surviving children and other family members.
Anderson Estate Planning in Texas Can Help
Estate planning is difficult even in the best of times, but it becomes far more challenging when someone dies intestate. If you need help with your estate or if you need assistance in handling probate without a will, we can help.
Get in touch with an estate planning firm with the skill and experience you need. Call Anderson Estate Planning in Texas at (469) 207-1529 to get started today.