The Importance of Leaving a Will… and What Happens When You Don’t

February is a month notoriously marked by love and romance. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, leaving a Will is one of the most generous and thoughtful gifts you can give. While you may not exactly want to present your Will over a candlelit dinner, this time of a year is an excellent reminder that taking care of your loved ones long after you’re gone is the ultimate gift that keeps on giving.

Many people believe you should be a member of AARP or be wealthy before you put a Will in place. But that’s just not the case. Whether you are young or old, rich or poor, you should consider creating a Will.

What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

When you die without a Will, an already difficult time can become a complicated legal situation for your loved ones. The State of Texas essentially creates one for you. If you are a resident of Texas and die without a valid Will, your property will be distributed to your heirs as determined by Texas law. Your assets will be distributed according to a statutory formula that doesn’t take into account your wishes or unique circumstances.

  • The Deceased is Married. The division of property at that point is dependent on whether it is characterized by separate or community property.
  • The Deceased is Single and Doesn’t Have Children. The state looks to parents, siblings or other relatives on either side of the family to find a qualifying heir. If someone dies and leaves behind no surviving heir, the estate would go to the State of Texas.
  • The Deceased is Unmarried and Has Children. The state code prioritizes the descendants by closeness in the family tree.

Unique Situations and Other Questions

No two families are the same. While the state qualifies inheritance without a Will quite clearly and specifically (as seen above), there are still many alternative scenarios that come up that I can walk you through.

What Can Your Family and Loved Ones Do Now?

There are not a lot of options for your family if you die without a Will. By not leaving a Will, you inevitably cause difficulties for those you leave behind, at a time when they are likely already distressing. They will likely have to go through a lengthy legal process that involves time and money for them to help determine who will gain power over your estate. If a Will had been prepared, this process would be unnecessary.

I cannot stress the importance of creating a Will enough. I hope this article is useful for those who are dealing with a death with no Will left behind. I am also optimistic that this information will reassure anyone who is without a Will to seriously consider putting one together.

Click here to read a more detailed explanation.