It is generally assumed that most people prepare wills during life for the efficient handling of their assets after death. The truth, however, is that over half of all Americans, including many in Texas, do not have wills. The situation of deceased pop star Prince is the most dramatic example recently of how the lack of a will can create havoc and elevated monetary expenses for a decedent's estate.
Probate takes place after the individual is deceased. It entails a situation where the decedent had sufficient assets in his or her name to qualify for the necessity of court administration of those assets pursuant to law. In Texas and other states, probate involves the appointment of a representative to administer the estate on behalf of the decedent. This can be the person appointed in a will or it may be a person who applies to the court where there is no will.
Serving as the executor of a decedent's estate in Texas and elsewhere is an important responsibility that requires serious commitment to the duties that must be performed by law. If the estate is not administered properly as required, there is potential liability against the executor. An executor must use sound judgment and must be committed to following the letter of the law.
It is always difficult after losing a beloved family member to focus on administering the loved one's estate. Assuming that the decedent has died leaving assets in his or her name, then those assets will have to be administered through a process known as estate administration. In the ideal case in Texas and elsewhere, the decedent will have left an updated will specifying the disposition of his or her assets after death.
The divorce rate for first marriages is hovering at almost 50 percent and that for second and third marriages even higher. Also considering that some women stay single by choice, some experts recommend that women should think in terms of estate planning and elder planning needs as though they will someday be single. The monetary funding of one's future needs in Texas and elsewhere is often the first and foremost challenge of the planning process.
If a person dies with assets, Texas law generally requires the filing of an estate proceeding. An estate may be administered pursuant to the specifications in the decedent's will or, if there is no will, pursuant to the dictates of state law. If an executor or other personal representative is appointed in the decedent's will, that person will act to carry out the directions in the will, within the confines of state law.
Believe it or not, over half of those who are between the ages of 55 and 64 do not have a will in place. A will is vital to include in an estate since it gives instructions on how to distribute assets. Without a will, the state of Texas may make the decision on distribution.
Estate planning is common for most citizens in this country. However, uncommon situations that may come up in estate planning are issues involving non-citizen Texas spouses. Tax breaks that would normally apply to citizens may not apply to those who are not citizens.
The question sometimes comes up regarding the difference between non-probate and probate assets. Under Texas law and the law of all other jurisdictions, non-probate assets are those that do not pass through one's estate at death. They generally pass automatically to a beneficiary by what is called "operation of law." Probate assets, on the other hand, do not have a beneficiary designation and pass by your will or by the laws of intestacy if there is no will.