Dying without a valid will in place can leave the decedent’s family in a precarious situation when Texas probate law is applied. All individuals who die intestate will have their financial assets place in probate, which means that creditors and government taxation agencies can file claims against the funds first. This can be devastating to a family regardless of the amount of assets exposed to collection, so it is vital for anyone who even has moderate assets to have a valid last will and testament recorded to avoid just such a calamity.
A properly designed estate plan can often bypass the probate process altogether, which means that all inherited assets can be assigned to the desired individual with no surprises left for the family to endure. The law can be unkind when an estate goes to probate and the family only gets what is left over after creditors stake their claims. Spouses inherit all marital property and one-third of all personal property when the decedent has children regardless of whether they are part of the immediate nuclear family. Spouses also maintain the right to use real estate until they die.
There is a predetermined order in Texas for assigning assets to inheritors in an estate with no surviving spouse or children. Parents are first in line if still living with the next closest kin being nieces and nephews. Sans these particular relatives, the next in line will be cousins and other relatives based on who is closest of kin.
Even when an estate does go to probate, inheritance of remaining assets could still be contested if the estate is not insolvent after probate claims are paid. Other issues can arise when the decedent has minor children at home who could wind up being assigned to guardians who are not the best fit for them regarding physical and emotional health. Houston probate and estate planning attorneys who work with these types of cases on a regular basis may know what to address when the estate plan is being developed and assist in eliminating the opportunity for a bad outcome.