"Abuelo Wanted The House To Go To _______"
The West Side of San Antonio, Texas is full of little houses that have been in the family for generations. Most people in the family know who Abuelo and Abuela wanted the house to go to. Often, unfortunately, A&A never saw the need to make wills telling the world who gets the house, so there are many homes with deeds that are generations out of date, making it a nightmare to get them sold or transferred into the name of the true owner and greatly decreasing their value.
Your city probably has an area similar to our West Side. However, it’s not just these areas of modest means that sport untitled real estate: Let me make this as clear as possible: if you own real estate, you need an estate plan. Period.
So what’s an estate plan, you ask? Simply put, it’s some form of written, properly executed document that tells the world who gets your stuff, including real estate, when you die. Without it, your heirs will have to rely on laws and statutes to figure out who gets what, and that often ends up being vastly different that you intended.
Example: here in Texas, if you die without a will and you’re married, AND you’ve only been married to that spouse, AND all the kids are kids of that marriage, then your spouse gets all the community property. Sounds good, right? Well, what if the two of you were living in a house you owned as a single person before y'all got married? That’s not community property, it’s separate property. That means your children inherit the house, not your spouse. Your spouse can live in it until he or she dies or abandons it, but can never sell it. Add to that the fact that your spouse only gets half of your separate personal property, with your kids splitting the rest, and you (actually, your heirs) have a potential mess on their hands.
Estate planning can be as simple or complex as you want it to be, from a simple transfer-on-death deed (“TODD”) to a living trust. The degree of complexity depends on your circumstances. The point is this: when it comes to your family’s inheritance, doing nothing is almost always worse than doing something.
As always, the above is legal information based on Texas law (because I'm a Texas lawyer), not legal advice. Every case and jurisdiction is different, and you should consult an attorney if you have questions or concerns about your situation.
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