These days the process of estate planning has become extremely complicated and time consuming. With laws constantly changing many people find it easier to hire an attorney then attempt to do anything themselves. However, the lenient laws in Texas that make estate planning easier can also create difficulties for your heirs.
Estate planning in Texas is a lot different than other states when it comes to creating a will. In the state of Texas an "oral will" is considered legal and valid. An oral will is the act of stating how you would like to dispose of personal property during a long illness either at home or another location. If the property being disposed of is worth more than $30.00 three or more credible witnesses are needed to verify the statement.
While this can make things easier on individuals who expect to inherit but who know the sick individual has never written a will this can create difficulties between family members. Anyone who was not present during the statement can doubt or dispute whether or not the oral will is valid. Unfortunately, the only way to attempt to change things is going to court which can be costly and time consuming.
In the state of Texas is no will is available or the oral will is deemed invalid then the court can decide how to dispose of things. Often this process is straight forward but with Texas being a community property state things can get confusing. Only property purchased during a marriage is considered community property and a surviving spouse will only inherit this property if all children of the deceased or also the surviving spouses natural children.
If any of the children of the deceased are not the spouses children then the children receive their parents half of the community property. A spouse only has the right to continue living on property that is considered the primary home. The separate real estate property, except for a home occupied by the surviving spouse, would go to the children and they would also receive two-thirds of any other items.
Estate planning in Texas should always include creating a legal written will. The state of Texas allows handwritten wills to be presented as long as they are written entirely in the deceased parties' handwriting and no typed additions have been made. The written will must contain a statement acknowledging that it is a last will and testament.
Estate planning can be a complicated process, and not something to be taken lightly. Make sure to consult with an Estate Planning Attorney before beginning.