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Interesting Developments In Inheritance Laws

My practice is limited to trials involving inheritance disputes including will contest, related property disputes and associated torts. To ask privately about a Texas litigation issue involving an inheritance dispute, click the big red button to go to our main site's contact page and ask a question privately.

What happens if you get divorced after making your will?

ex-wifethumbnailWhat happens if you get divorced after making your will?

When you get divorced, Texas law answers the question of what happens if you get divorced after making your will? Texas law provides that after a divorce, all provisions in a will in favor of a former spouse “must be read as if the former spouse failed to survive the testator” and are null and void. EC123.001(b), 201.001.
Therefore, if you get divorced and don’t change your will, you ex-wife will not inherit under your will even if you want her to inherit from you. You would have to make a new will after the divorce in order for her to inherit from you under your will. Of course, if you don’t want her to inherit under the will, the law voids all provisions for her. To be safe, you need to change your will if there is a divorce.

Problems With Not Changing a Will After Divorce

A case decided by the Texas Supreme Court, In re Estate of Nash, shows how expensive litigation can result if you don’t change your will.

Nash’s Will left everything to his wife, or if she predeceased him then to the wife’s daughter, his step-daughter. Nash and his wife later divorced, but he never changed his Will.
Both his ex-wife and her daughter survived him. A relative filed for probate seeking all of Nash’s property for Nash’s other heirs at law saying that the provisions in the will giving everything to his ex-wife and his ex-step-daughter were no longer valid. Since the will made no other provisions for the property, the relatives said that Nash died intestate and the property went to Nash’s heirs at law (nieces and nephews, etc.).
The ex-step-daughter said that the property belonged to her arguing that Texas law treats the divorced wife as having predeceased Nash therefore the provision that if his wife predeceased him everything would go to the step-daughter came into effect.

The Court ruled against the ex-step-daughter and in favor of the relative, holding that since the ex-step-daughter only took under the contingency that her mother predeceased Nash, the ex-step-daughter did not inherit because her mother was still alive. This is true even though the Texas statute treats the mother as having predeceased Nash.

See also the post here about problems if you don’t change your will.

Moral of the Story

Nash may have had a good relationship with his ex-wife and/or with his ex-step-daughter (the Court doesn’t say) but even if he didn’t change his will because he thought it would all go to them, he was mistaken. And what would have happened if didn’t want his ex-wife or his ex-step-daughter to get anything and his ex-wife would have died before him? Would his ex-step-daughter inherited then? The moral of this case is that you need to redo your will after a divorce or the courts may decide who gets your property.

 

How I learned to stop worrying and love probate, Part 1.

fearthumbnailMost people don’t know what probate is but they know that they don’t like it. They know that they should be afraid of it and try to avoid probate at all cost.

This fear of probate has come about recently because of some individuals or groups trying to sell people, mostly seniors, trust forms or packages. The best, surefire way to sell a senior something is to make him afraid. So these individuals or groups try to scare seniors about probate in order to sell the seniors their trust forms or some similar package which they claim will avoid the dreaded probate. They come into a town and send out invitations for a free dinner or a free lunch and try to sell these packages. In truth, the seniors end up paying these groups much more than they would ordinarily pay a lawyer for helping them with probate.

In this first part of a series of post dealing with probate, I want to go over the probate process and tell you why we have it and what it does. When a person dies (the decedent), his property passes to somebody. Who does it pass to? If he has a will, his property passes to who ever he gives it to in his will. If he doesn’t have a will, his property passes to his heirs as defined by state law. So how does the public know to whom his property passes? By probate! Probate in its basic form is just the means to notify the public who gets legal title to the property of the person who has died. It is the official notification, so to speak.

One of probate’s functions is to insure that there are not breaks in title to property. If a title examiner is researching the title to a piece of property and the deed records show that the property was in the name of the decedent but that someone else (his wife or children) are trying to sell it, his first question will be, ‘why isn’t the title holder signing the deed’ because he doesn’t know that the title holder is dead and he just sees a break in the title. Even though the (wife or children) tell the examiner that the property is theirs, the examiner needs some legal papers to show ownership. Probate cures that problem and shows that legal title has passed from the decedent to (his wife or children) through the probate proceeding and the title examiner will be able to approve the title.

In the next part of “How I learned to stop worrying and love probate,” I’ll discuss the problems that can arise when someone uses these preprinted trust forms with out the assistance of a lawyer.

Should I have a will?

willthumbnailThe short answer is yes. If you don’t have a will, your estate will go to your heirs as determined by statute. That may be what you want but what if you are married and have children from a prior marriage. If you die without a will, your property, including your home, will go to your heirs, not you spouse!

Texas has community property. That means that what ever was acquired during marriage is half yours and half your spouse’s. If your home was community property, your half would go to your heirs, not your spouse! He/She would retain his/her half but the other half would not be owned by him/her. The same thing would happen to your other property. Because of this, you need to have a will so that you and not the state can determine who gets your property. Simple wills are inexpensive and everyone should have one.

Welcome to the blog of TexasInheritance.Com

Welcome to the blog of TexasInheritance.Com, published by the law office of Robert A. Ray, Attorney at Law.

Once we get the kinks worked out of the blog, we will have a resource that will be beneficial to our clients as well as visitors who may have non legal questions about Inheritance. Our intention is to have current information as well as general discussions and practical, non legal, advise on Inheritance problems.  So check the blog often to see updates. If you have a request for a discussion about a particular area, leave a comment.

Disclaimer: This blog does not give legal advice. This blog does not create an attorney client relationship. You are not permitted to rely on anything in this blog for any reason. This blog is an entirely personal endeavor.

Please be advised that this is not the place to get legal advise about your legal problem. This blog will be a general discussion of general matters of interest to the public. If you need legal advise for a legal problem, contact us to see if we can represent you. Our contact information is at www.TexasInheritance.Com.

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We handle litigation involving inheritance disputes. We don't prepare wills. We handle a select few cases on contingency. Don't use a comment to ask a personal question about an inheritance issue because your name and comment will be public. To ask a litigation question and to protect your privacy, click the red button to the right.


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