Many people do not understand the verbiage used in wills and probate and/or what type of things one can leave in a will. Firstly, it is important to know the process. A decedent’s property passes immediately to the beneficiaries. If no will exists, then the property passes immediately to the heirs at law. The Courts intervene as a way of transfer of ownership. They will either prove-up the will in Court or identify the heirs if no will exists. This ensures the rights of the family are protected. In order to simplify the Texas probate process, it is important to understand all of the basic terminology that will be used throughout the process. Below are a few very common Texas Wills & Probate Terms.
A Legal document where a decedent has outlined how they would like their assets to be disbursed between their loved ones.
An estate consists of all the assets, including, but not limited to, cash, real estate, stocks and bonds, life insurance policies, retirement accounts, vehicles and personal belongings.
The legal term for the person who has died and whose estate is in the probate process.
A valid will names a person to serve as the executor (male) or executrix (female) of the estate. This person will handle all the necessary processes to finalize the estate.
A Court will name an administrator to carry out the duties of an executor when a person dies without a valid will or executor.
The loved ones named in the will by the decedent or determined by a Court, who will receive assets from the decedent’s estate.
What are Heirs and Heirs at Law?
The verbiage is generally listed as a decedent’s heirs and/or heirs at law. This simply means that it would first pass to your heirs (whomever you have chosen). If no heir is specified in your will or if you do not have a will. then your property would be given to your spouse, then to your children, then your children’s spouse, then your grandchildren. If you have multiple children, lets say 3 children, 1 child has passed, then the assets would be split in 3 ways between the children, with the one-third portion that was set to go to your deceased child would then be split between that child’s children. This is the basic terminology in wills. If you want any of this changed to be more specific you can do so with a custom will.