When you marry the love of your life, you build a beautiful life together. However, even love will end in death. Fortunately, you can protect your spouse in the afterlife through estate planning. When done correctly, estate planning may help your spouse avoid probate.
Probate is the legal and formal process of distributing a person’s estate after death. If the person has a valid will, then the distribution will follow the terms of the will, and there will be no need to go to court. The court may need to intervene if the person dies without a valid will. The distribution depends on the type of property you leave behind.
What Are The Types Of Properties?
First, you should know that properties can be your personal property, such as jewelry, vehicles and bank accounts. But properties can also be real property, which is land and anything you had built on that land. It would help you understand how the state categorizes and distributes property upon the death of one spouse.
Like most states, Texas divides spouses’ properties into community property and separate property. Separate property includes everything each spouse obtained before marriage and any inheritance or gifts they received during the marriage. Separate personal property will go to your spouse, but your surviving spouse and children must split your separate real property.
Community property includes all the assets and liabilities acquired during the marriage. It belongs to both of you. When one spouse passes, the surviving spouse should receive half of the community property automatically if the following conditions exist:
- All your surviving children and descendants are also your surviving spouse’s children and descendants
- There are no other surviving children or descendants outside of your marriage
If you have children or descendants that are not the children or descendants of your spouse, they may claim a portion of the community property you leave behind.
How Can You Protect Your Surviving Spouse?
Texas laws on inheritance can be confusing because of the number of ways a blood relative can have a claim. You must make a solid and valid will to protect the interests of your spouse. The will must account for the entire estate. Make sure to include all of your properties.