I get a lot of questions about estate planning by email. Most of the questions are too involved for an answer by return email. In those situations, I arrange either an in-office consultation or a phone consultation. But, every now and again I do get a question that can be easily answered with a simple email. The most recent question is one such question. And, I get this question so often I thought I’d do a quick post to answer it for the benefit anyone else who may be wondering whether to send me a message about it.
Here’s the scenario:
A young man dies without a will. He is an adult but is not married and has no children. He is survived by both parents, two full siblings and a half sibling. He lived with a parent, and the only possession in his name is a car.
The question is whether probate is necessary to transfer title to the car the young man owned at the die of his death.
The simple answer is that you can transfer title to the car with an Affidavit of Heirship for a Motor Vehicle. While you can have an attorney draft the affidavit for you, there is a form for it on the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles website (download form VTR-262). The heirs will have to sign the affidavit in the presence of a notary public stating that they are the young man’s only known heirs.
For more information on who inherits the car in this situation, you can read I’m Single, I Have No Children … Do I Need a Will in Texas? In this particular case, the young man’s parents inherit his entire estate equally because he was unmarried, had no children, and his parents survived him.
Do I Need a Will If I’m Single and Have No Children? This question is one I hear a lot in my office. As with a lot of legal questions, the definitive answer is “it depends.” But, I do say that with a touch of sarcasm because “it depends” on whether you want to make the decision about what happens to your property at your death or you want to trust the State of Texas to make the decision for you.
If you die without a valid will in Texas (the legal term of art is that you die “intestate”), the Texas Probate Code determines how your property is divided and to whom it is distributed. The following is a brief outline of how it works:
1. If both of your parents are living, your assets pass equally to your parents. If only one of your parents is alive and you do not have any brothers or sisters, your entire estate passes to your living parent
2. If you do have brothers or sisters, or surviving nieces and nephews, your living parent only gets half of your estate. The other half goes equally to your siblings or their descendants.
3. If neither of your parents is alive when you die, your entire estate passes to your siblings or their descendants.
4. If you have no parents alive at your death, no surviving siblings and no surviving descendants of your siblings, your estate is divided in half, with one-half passing to your mother’s side of the family and one- half passing to your father’s side of the family.
5. If one side of your family has completely died out, the entire estate passes to the surviving side. 6. If you die without any surviving heir, a rare occurrence, your estate passes to the State of Texas.
If you are happy with the way the law divides and distributes your estate when you die without a Will in Texas, you don’t need to concern yourself with preparing a Will. But, if this doesn’t sound like the way you would like your assets distributed after your death, you need a will … even if you are single and childless.