Texans who are without a vast portfolio and do not own significant amounts of property will often shun the basics when protecting themselves with an estate plan. There might be a perception that an estate plan is only necessary for those who own a lot. This is not the case. The reality is that people who function under the belief that they own so little that wills and other estate planning devices are unnecessary do have many items that need to be addressed by formulating at least a basic document. Still, it is important to understand what happens when there is no will or other estate planning document to serve as a guideline after death.
Dying without a will is known as dying intestate. In every state, there are contingencies in place to account for this all-too common issue. In general, intestacy laws dictate that the decedent’s estate passes to the closest living relative. That could be a spouse, a child, a parent, or a sibling. The benefits of a will or other device are that it states exactly what the decedent wanted rather than relying on what the state laws say. Should a person fail to detail where he or she wants the assets and property to go, it will simply be passed along to the closest living relative whether that is what the decedent would have desired or not.
Property is just a small aspect of a will. When a person has young children, a will is critical. Relatives might jockey for the chance to be a child’s guardian. Naming a person who will be trusted to serve as the child’s guardian is a sound strategy for peace of mind. A simple yet comprehensive estate plan will also need a power of attorney and a medical directive. With the power of attorney, a designated person can serve in the person’s stead and make sure their bills are paid and other areas of their life are taken care of. The medical directive details what type of care the person will want. Some people do not want to be kept alive via life support – this can be written in the document to ensure that the medical staff will not follow through with it.
Before making the mistake of ignoring the basics of having an estate plan, it is wise to discuss it with a legal professional who is experienced in all potential scenarios related to wills and other estate planning devices. This should be done as soon as possible to make sure everyone – including the testator – is fully protected.