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Asset Distribution

Controlling How Your Assets Are Distributed

Death is never timely and it causes a family to experience bereavement with the need to readjust emotionally and financially almost immediately, and often with an uncertain future. Death is more than a personal issue, for it is a legal one as well. The family must obtain a death certificate and the decedent's estate must pass to the rightful beneficiaries or heirs.

An estate consists of real and personal property that is owned at the time of the decedent's death. Real property includes land as well as oil, gas and other mineral interests. Personal property includes cash in bank accounts, household furnishings, jewelry, automobiles, stocks and bonds, life insurance policies, and government, retirement or employee benefits.

There are a number of factors that determine how someone's assets are distributed upon their death, with the existence of a will or a trust playing a critical role in the distribution of assets. When someone passes away, title to their property passes immediately to his or her beneficiaries under their will or if there is no will, to the heirs-at-law. If there is a trust, then the trust assets will be distributed according to the directions set forth in the trust, which were directed by the grantor.

In order for transfer of ownership of property to occur, the will must be proven in court. If there is no will, then by having the court determine who are the decedent's heirs. The main purpose of court involvement is to protect the rights of the decedent's family and those entitled to receive property from the decedent's estate.

Dividing Community Property Without a Will

Community property is all property, other than separate property that was acquired by either spouse during the marriage. If the decedent is survived by a spouse and children they had with their spouse, then all community property passes to the surviving spouse. However, if any of the surviving children are from a previous marriage, one-half of the community property passes to the decedent's children, and the surviving spouse retains one-half of the community property. Under Texas law the surviving spouse has the right to occupy the homestead during his or her life.

If someone dies without a will, their property will be disposed of under Texas law. The law does not play favorites; therefore, the distribution is determined by how closely an heir is related to the decedent, and not by the nature or quality of the relationship between the heir and the decedent. When someone dies without a will or a trust, it can trigger undesired results and cause unexpected delays.

Since one usually has an idea how he or she would like their property to pass down to others, undesired results can occur when he or she dies without a will or a trust. Dying without an estate plan risks that the property will not be distributed as the decedent would have wished, and this is especially a concern when you have second marriages or children from prior marriages or relationships. For example, if there is animosity between the spouse and children from a previous marriage (who are now co-owners of the property), conflicts and disputes can arise, and this surely isn't what the deceased spouse would have wanted for their loved ones.

To learn more about how you can create an estate plan that will ensure your assets are distributed according to your wishes, contact a Houston estate planning attorney from Shepherd & Associates today!

Shepherd & Associates - Houston Estate Planning Lawyer
Located at 14090 Southwest Freeway, Suite 300
Sugar Land, TX 77478
Phone: (713) 993-7791
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The information on this website is for general information purposes only. Nothing on this site should be taken as legal advice for any individual case or situation. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship.

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