What Happens If You Don’t Have A Will In Texas
If you die without a will in Texas, you are deemed to be “intestate.” Your wishes for the distribution of your assets upon your death will not carry any weight. Instead, your estate’s assets will be distributed according to the intestate succession laws found in the Texas Probate Code. For this reason, you should consult with an experienced estate planning attorney about preparing a will.
In these situations, probate can be a long and expensive process. Dying without a will in place essentially leaves all of these decisions up to the state, and puts your loved ones in a difficult predicament. Without a will, you cannot choose your beneficiaries, the person you want to manage your estate, reduce/eliminate estate taxes or income taxes, etc. In other words, you have zero control, and your loved ones will likely have a huge challenge ahead of them.
Famous People Who Died Without a Will: What Happened?
According to one survey, 64% of Americans do not have a will, usually because they either have not gotten around to it yet, or mistakenly believe that it will cost too much to work with an attorney to form one.
You might be surprised to find out that even famous, well-off individuals such as Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley, and Abraham Lincoln all died intestate (without a will), with estate battles raging on for long periods of time as a result. For Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley, as famous musicians, their estates continued to generate significant revenue after their deaths and thus resulted in many claimants battling over the estate for years after, which can cost millions. Other famous people who died without a will include:
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
- Howard Hughes
- Kurt Cobain
- Tupac Shakur
- Sonny Bono
- Barry White
- Steig Larsson
- James Brown
- Steve McNair
- Amy Winehouse
If I don't have a will where do I start?
How Does it Work?
Without a will in place, state law dictates who is eligible to become the executor of your estate. For example, in Texas, the priority list is:
- The decedent’s surviving spouse;
- The next of kin of the decedent;
- A creditor of the decedent;
- Any person of good character residing in the county who applies for the letters;
- Any other person who is not otherwise disqualified under the law; and/or
- Anyone appointed public probate administrator.
Assets Not Distributed Via Wills
It is also important to note that there are a variety of assets that are not passed by will, and which you will also want to chat with an experienced estate attorney about; assets such as:
- 401(k)s, IRAs, retirement plans;
- Life insurance;
- Anything held in a joint tenancy, such as real estate;
- Stocks or other property held in a transfer-on-death account
For items such as these, a beneficiary needs to be separately designated, outside of the will.
Do Not Make the Same Mistake
If you live in Texas, contact one of our estate attorneys today for a free consultation. We can help you plan for your future to ensure that your loved ones are taken care of.
Michael P. Fleming is a highly experienced litigator who has argued and won a case before the U.S. Supreme Court. He is a Houston resident who was twice elected to serve as the Harris County Attorney. He is also an avid runner who has completed eight marathons, to date, including two in Ireland. Only a small group of Texas lawyers are Board Certified as specialists in both Personal Injury Trial Law and Real Estate Law. Michael is one of them. He also proudly holds his B.A. degree from the University of Saint Thomas and his J.D. degree from the University of Houston College of Law.