Creating an estate plan is not just for the very wealthy. In fact, virtually every adult can benefit from estate planning. The state of Texas will step in when someone passes away without a will, dictating how their property will be handled in what is usually a costly, time-consuming process — probate.
During probate of an estate without a will, the court will appoints a representative who will be responsible for distributing assets according to state law. The representative is usually the person’s surviving spouse, or a close relative if the deceased was not married at the time of his or her death. A public trustee will be assigned to the role if there is not a spouse or willing family member. The representative is duty-bound to comply with the law, and there is no way of guaranteeing that decisions are in line with what the deceased would have wanted.
There is also a lot of paperwork and even court appearances during probate. Waiting on various court appearances often takes months in Texas and, in some cases, even years. Appearing and court and filing paperwork usually comes at a cost too. Although this is paid by the estate, it means there is less left over for heirs.
Even if someone does not feel strongly about what happens to property after death, he or she probably cares about what happens to loved ones. Estate planning can be an excellent last gift to spouses, children and grandchildren, and in certain circumstances it can help them avoid having to deal with probate. While a will might be sufficient for many estate owners, it may be wise to consider whether other documents — such as trusts and powers of attorney — could also be helpful.