Many people without children believe that their estate planning should be simpler than it is for those who do not have any kids. This is a dangerous assumption that can cause many issues in handling your estate after you die, as well as making financial and healthcare decisions for you if you become incapacitated. For instance, the Texas Health and Safety Code provides rules for who should be responsible for the disposition of a person’s remains after he or she dies. If you don’t name the person responsible for your remains in an estate planning document, then your spouse has the right, followed by your children, your parents, and siblings. For people who have never been married or are divorced or widowed, and who have no children, a distant relative could potentially be tasked with making certain decisions regarding your remains as well as your estate. Having an estate plan in place allows you to name the people that you trust to carry out your wishes in the event of your death or incapacity.
Another issue for clients in Houston involves who will receive your assets when you die. If you are married and all of your property is community property, then your spouse will generally inherit your one-half of the community property under Texas law. However, if you are not married and have no children, then there is the potential for more distant relatives to inherit some or all of your property, which may not be in line with your wishes. By having a last will and testament in place, you have control over who will receive your assets and who will manage the administration of your estate in Texas. This is especially important if you would like to leave part of your estate to charity, in which case it is critical that you have an estate plan in place that ensures your assets will be disposed of according to your wishes.
A well-designed Houston estate plan for singles or married couples without children can often be fairly simple and inexpensive to implement. However, the cost of failing to implement an estate plan can be quite high, depending on your family situation and how your wishes align with the default rules under Texas law. You should speak to an estate planning attorney to ensure that your estate plan is designed and implemented in a way that will meet your goals and objectives.