Recent surveys done by Lawyers.com have shown that nearly 60% of adults lack a last will and testament. It’s not always a pleasant topic to consider, but it’s incredibly important that you have a will, or the state where you live will make the decision on how to divide your assets.
If you die intestate, which means if you die without a will, Texas will divvy up your assets according to the state laws. You can take a look at how Texas interprets intestate succession statutes at http://www.mystatewill.com/states/TX/TXintcalc.php.
While many married couples assume that their spouse will automatically be given their assets and then will in turn take care of the children, only 16 states have adopted this type of law. This means that without a last will and testament, it may not be up to your spouse to make the decision of how your assets will be divvied up.
Some states automatically give 1/3 of the assets to the surviving spouse and the children are given the rest. Other states give spouses half the assets, and others have even wonkier laws regarding intestate succession. If you have young children, this can cause complications regarding how to keep track and take care of the money given to the young ones. The laws on dividing estates vary from state to state, and some cities have their own laws as well.
In some states the deceased parents are given a portion of the assets, in others even nieces and nephews are automatically given a portion. If you’re in a second marriage with children from the first, there can be even more complications. Some states automatically grant a big chunk of your assets to your second spouse, which can mean that your children are left with very little. This can include your house, your 401(k) and many of the other savings that you had put aside with the intention of leaving them to your children. And if you want to leave assets to an unmarried partner, many states are even harsher at fulfilling those requests unless you specifically write them out in a will.
If you and your partner both die, then most states give divvy your assets among yours and your partner’s parents, although there can be hiccups in that plan as well.
No one ever wants to think about what should happen in the event of his or her death. But if you don’t put some thought into now, you could end up leaving behind an even messier situation for your heirs. A will doesn’t take long to prepare, but it can save your family a huge headache in the event of a sudden accident.
Photo from Flickr User Ken_Mayer