Kellie F. Stokes, Attorney at Law | Stokes Law Office, PLLC | www.kstokeslaw.com
When someone dies without a Will, the State of Texas becomes the legal entity to determine the disposition of your worldly possessions. Although the distribution plan laid out by Texas law may not differ from what many people would normally choose for themselves, Texas law offers little flexibility. For example, the law may split certain real estate between a surviving spouse and children. If no children exist, then the law may split real estate between the surviving spouse and the decedent’s parents.
One of the most important reasons for executing a Will is to avoid the costs incurred to the estate. Basically, without a Will stating your instructions on how you want your estate distributed and who you want supervising the distribution, the Probate Court will supervise the process. This process is known as “dependent administration” and each step made, such as gathering assets, paying debts, distributing assets, etc., must be formally presented to the Probate Court for the judge’s approval. The judge may also need to appoint attorneys to administer the estate, to protect the interests of “unknown heirs”, and to represent the interests of minors. All of these requirements protect the decedent’s estate but they also become expensive and time consuming. If your thought is that your estate is too small for a Will, then please rethink your decision. Medium or smaller size estates can often be eaten up or significantly affected by the costs related to a “dependent administration.” By providing a Will to handle your estate, many costs can be avoided.
Additionally, children can be taken care of more specifically. For example, a Will can nominate guardians for their minor children. Also, a “Contingent Minority Trust” can be included in the Will dictating who will be the caretaker (trustee) of the funds left a child, and at what age the funds should go to the child. Otherwise, the funds will go to the child at eighteen as dictated by Texas law.
At a reasonable cost, many matters can be handled by putting a Will in place. For more information, please see our Wills page.