Some people think that the government will take care of everything if they die without an estate plan. Many of these individuals intend to make some type of strategy at some nebulous point in the future, but they keep pushing it off because there isn’t a feeling of immediacy. After all, it doesn’t have to be done today? Or does it?
Let’s talk about it. If you die without any type of estate plan at all, you have died intestate. This is a legal word that means “without a will.” It comes from the old word “testament,” which indicates a piece of writing that serves as evidence of underlying events– you may be familiar with it from a religious context. If you die intestate, generally the state will intervene to provide some sort of supervision to distribute your estate. How does this actually work?
The court will appoint a personal representative to act as the hands-on administrator. Creditors will be notified about your passing, and valid final debts will be paid from assets that comprise the estate.
Ultimately, the court will approve of the distribution of the assets using the intestate succession laws of the state of Texas (or your home state, if your property is located outside of Texas). That may sound easy, but it may not take your actual wishes into account.
For example, let’s say you are married and have no children. You will probably want your surviving spouse to inherit all of your property. In Texas, your spouse would inherit both all of the community property. Easy, right?
Here’s the catch– generally your spouse would only receive half of your separate real property, and your parents would get the rest. This is just one example of the numerous ways an intestate distribution can go awry.
What if you become incapacitated? This could be due to old age or other circumstances; everyone ages, after all, and a significant proportion of people in their 70s and 80s become at least partially unable to care for themselves.
Let’s say you do nothing to prepare for incapacity. In that case, the state could be petitioned to appoint a guardian to manage your affairs. You would become a ward, without much say in the matter. Most people would prefer to choose someone to act as their representative, but far too many people fail to take action while they still have options.
You do not have to be stuck with a random guardian. You can include incapacity planning in your estate plan. As far as financial decisions are concerned, you can use a living trust to state your final wishes and name an honest disability trustee to help care for you. A durable power of attorney for property is another potential addition that can empower a trusted person to manage any assets that you never placed into your trust.
Advance directives are another part of this system. They allow you to name an agent who will handle your financial decision-making. With a living will, you can also state your wishes regarding the utilization of life-sustaining measures if you are ever in a terminal condition with no hope of recovery. This is particularly important for people of certain religious denominations that may discourage the use of ventilators or blood transfusions.
Need Help Now?
Going without an estate plan is a roll of the dice. Gamble long enough, and we all know that there can be negative consequences. Statistics show that most people are not prepared for the future, and one of the reasons why they procrastinate is because they are simply overwhelmed by the options.
We understand this impulse, so we are here to simplify the process for you. Here at the Slaton Schauer Law Firm, PLLC our attorneys will get to know you, analyze your family’s situation, and work with you to find the best ways to protect your legacy.
Give us a call today to learn about the best ways to protect your estate.
Our office number is 512-258-9455. If you’d rather send us a message, there is a contact form on our website. Feel free to contact us today!