After you pass away, your will or the probate court designates an individual to manage your estate. The individual who fulfills this role is called the executor or administrator. If you create a will, you are likely to designate a trusted individual to carry out your last wishes. If you die without a will, the probate court takes on the task of designating an executor.
Upon death, an individual is referred to as a “decedent.” The executor of an estate is responsible for identifying and collecting the decedent’s assets and paying the decedent’s debts. Additionally, the executor must distribute the remaining estate according to the decedent’s will or, if no will exists, according to Texas intestacy laws.
Generally, individuals who create a will (testators) select a trusted family member to function as the executor after the testator passes away. Often, this is a spouse or adult child. You should take into account an individual’s capacity to handle the responsibilities of an executor, especially at a time when the individual may be grieving.
Under Texas law, an individual executor must be at least 18 years of age. Texas law also allows testators to designate a business entity such as a bank or law firm to act as an executor. In addition to the individual age requirement, an executor must qualify to act as an executor under Texas law. In Texas, certain individuals and entities are legally disqualified from serving as estate executors. Incapacitated individuals, convicted felons, nonresidents of Texas (unless an in-state agent is appointed), and corporations not authorized to be fiduciaries in Texas are disqualified from acting as executors. Additionally, a court may disqualify any individual or entity it deems “unsuitable” to act as executor.
An experienced San Antonio wills attorney can work to make sure your end-of-life wishes are carried out.
A will is a very valuable document that helps your friends and loved ones distribute your property after you die. The value of a will is in its ability to help your loved ones distribute your property according to your wishes. What happens to your property if you die without creating a will?
If you create a will, you are referred to as the “testator.” Individuals who die without a will are considered to have died “intestate.” The property of those who die without a will is distributed according to Texas intestacy laws. Intestacy laws follow a strict formulaic approach to property division and do not account for individual circumstances and desires.
If you die without a will, a court assigns an executor to handle the distribution of your estate. The court’s choice of an executor may not be the person you would have wanted to distribute your property, but since you had no will, you have no say in the matter. Property is divided based upon your marital status at death and whether you have surviving descendants.
The general intestacy laws below apply to most situations, but in some cases, property division can become very complex. Usually, if a person dies unmarried and without children, the estate passes to the surviving parents. If the parents are deceased, the estate passes to the siblings or their descendants. If a person dies unmarried, with children, the children or their descendants receive the estate. If the person dies married, any community property passes to the surviving spouse if there are no children or if all of the children are also children of the surviving spouse. Otherwise, the surviving spouse receives half of the estate and the children split the remaining half. If the deceased had separate property, the division of the estate differs based upon whether the deceased had children. In some situations, an estate “escheats” or transfers to the state if no qualifying relatives survive.
A knowledgeable San Antonio wills attorney at the law firm of Joseph P. Appelt can help you draft a will to ensure that your wishes are fulfilled.