Estate Planning, Legacy, Medical Power of Attorney, Power of Attorney, Trusts

Do NOT Make This Mistake if You Lose Your Spouse

It’s the most common misconception I see: I don’t need to worry about my estate plan if my spouse dies because we did everything together for 30+ years! I’m just going to live my life like nothing happened and not worry about probate.

But nothing could be farther from the truth.

The problem with this misconception is that there could be very serious legal problems that will arise later if you don’t address them after your spouse passes.

What do I mean by that? Well, we have to dive into Texas law to understand.

To be quite frank, Texas law does not consider how long you were married, if you shared finances together, lived together for decades, had a wonderful marriage, etc. Texas law only cares about who gets what when someone passes away.

Cold, but true.

More specifically, Texas law states that a deceased person’s will must be probated within 4 years after a spouse has passed away. If you do not probate your deceased spouse’s will within 4 years after their passing, Texas treats the deceased spouse as if they died with no will whatsoever.

Why does this matter? Because there can be instances where the spouse’s will directs one way to distribute assets, but the default laws of Texas that apply to people with no wills could force a different distribution of assets.

And that would be very bad for the surviving spouse. They could possibly lose a lot of the deceased spouse’s assets.

For example, if a husband and wife are married, and the husband has a child from another marriage, the child from the other marriage will receive the husband’s assets by default in Texas if there is not will. Not the wife. Even if they have been happily married for a very long time and everyone agrees that the wife should get everything.

The only way to prevent this default rule from applying is to have a will and probate it within 4 years after the spouse’s passing.

Otherwise the step-daughter gets it all, and the wife may be stuck with a lot less than anticipated.

This is but one example. Another includes changing the deed to the house before the surviving spouse passes away as well!

Moral of the story? There are a lot of hidden problems that do not usually come readily to view once a spouse passes. But you should get your attorney to make sure there are no hidden problems even if all seems well now. It shouldn’t take too long, and most of the time you’ll be completely fine to live life normally. But there are instances where not checking can lead to disasters.