While I was in Houston over the Holidays, I read an article in the Houston Chronicle that illustrates the unintended consequences of not having a will.
It was about a man named Timothy Cole, whose father had not been a part of his life since he was seven years old. Timothy Cole died in the Texas Prison System. He had been convicted of a rape he didn’t commit. Despite the fact that the actual rapist confessed 1995, and the victim admitted that she mistakenly identified him, he remained in prison until 1999, when he died at the age of 39 of an asthma attack.
Convinced of his innocence, Timothy Cole’s mother and siblings, through the Innocence Project of Texas worked tirelessly to clear his name. On February 6, 2009, he was posthumously cleared of any wrongdoing and his record was expunged.
As compensation for his wrongful imprisonment, his estate was awarded over $1 million. That’s when Timothy Cole’s deadbeat dad reappeared. You see, it appears that Timothy Cole did not have a will, which means that his estate will pass according to the Texas intestacy statutes.
According to these intestacy rules, if a single person dies without a will in Texas, his estate will pass equally to his parents if both are living, as in this case. So Timothy Cole’s dad, despite having not been a part of his son’s life for 32 years, stands to inherit more than half a million dollars from his estate. I doubt Timothy Cole would have wanted that.
You can read “Poster Child of a Deadbeat Dad” by following the link.