If You Don’t Have a Will, Texas Makes One For You

old holding handI received a phone call this week from a woman I’ll call Ellen, whose grandfather had succumbed to pancreatic cancer. His own children were unwilling to care for him while he was ill, so Ellen moved into his home and cared for him until he died.

As an expression of his gratitude, Ellen’s grandfather promised he would give her his house and the balance of his large bank account when he died. Unfortunately, his wishes will not be carried out.

Despite wanting his granddaughter to inherit the balance of his bank account, he named one of his daughters as power of attorney over that account. When his daughter discovered that he had been admitted to the hospital and was dying, she withdrew all the money from the account. She also evicted Ellen from her grandfather’s house after he died.

Ellen called wondering if there was anything she could do under the circumstances. Unfortunately there isn’t because her grandfather did not have a Will.

Texans have the freedom to distribute their property any way they choose when they die by making a Will. However, if they die without Will, their assets will be distributed according to a statutory formula that doesn’t take into account their wishes and unique circumstances.

In this situation, since Ellen’s grandfather died unmarried and was survived by all his children, his property will pass to his children, not to his granddaughter. He could have ensured that the property would pass to Ellen by naming her as the beneficiary of his estate in a Will.

To learn more about how property is distributed when Texan’s die without a Will, read: Dying Without a Will: The Texas Intestacy Statutes.

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