If you don’t have a will, you’re in good company. Legal experts estimate that 70% of Americans die without leaving a will, causing serious and costly problems for their surviving spouses and families.
Here are the costly problems that result when you die without leaving a will.
COSTLY PROBLEM #1: The court will name an administrator to handle your estate.
The administrator will distribute your money and property according to Texas state law. In most cases, the law will not give your property to the same persons you would have chosen, so if you want to control who gets your assets, it’s up to you to spell out your wishes in a will.
COSTLY PROBLEM #2: Your spouse may not get the money she needs to live.
Texas state law may not provide for your spouse the same way you would have. If you leave your instructions in a will, you can make sure that your spouse gets the money she needs.
COSTLY PROBLEM #3: Your assets may be divided equally among your heirs.
If you do not have a surviving spouse, your assets might be split equally among your heirs. Without a will, the court-appointed administrator has no way of knowing what you want to happen with your assets. One of your adult children may not need your money, while another may have special needs and require a substantial sum to live. Also, without a will, you won’t be able to protect your assets from an adult child’s creditors or an ex-spouse.
COSTLY PROBLEM #4: Your grandchildren may get nothing.
Texas law gives your assets first to your surviving spouse, and then to your children. Often, the law leaves nothing to grandchildren or other relatives. But if you leave a will, then you can specify who gets your assets and in what amounts.
COSTLY PROBLEM #5: Your stepchildren may get nothing.
Texas law defines your heirs as blood relatives, which means stepchildren may not get any part of your estate, unless you legally adopted them. If you leave a will, you can make sure your stepchildren are included as heirs.
COSTLY PROBLEM #6: You can't name the guardian for minor children.
Your minor children must have a guardian. But if you die without leaving a will, you have no say in who becomes the guardian. Instead, the court appoints a guardian and the court won’t likely choose the same guardian you would have chosen.
COSTLY PROBLEM #7: You can't choose who gets your special keepsakes.
You may want your grandfather clock to go to your granddaughter, and your coin collection to go to your grandson. But if you die without a will, the administrator must distribute your assets according to Texas state law. So your favorite assets and treasures, which you’ve collected for your entire life, may never go to the heirs you intended.
COSTLY PROBLEM #8: You can't leave money to your church or favorite charity.
Texas law states that your assets must go to relatives, in a specific order. The law does not allow the administrator to give your money to a church, charity, or any other organization. If you want your money to go to people and groups other than relatives, you must state your intent in your will.
COSTLY PROBLEM #9: A loved one could lose his or her Medicaid benefits.
If your money goes to a parent or another family member who receives Medicaid benefits for nursing home care, that person may no longer qualify for Medicaid benefits after he inherits money from you.