Texas residents may want to keep in mind some basic rules about the retirement accounts, annuities or life insurance policies of deceased loved ones or friends. If the policy or applicable papers contain a specific beneficiary designation, that asset will in most cases be paid directly to the listed beneficiary. The asset does not go through the decedent's estate and is not subject to estate administration. Thus, the asset is exempted from payment of estate liabilities, including from having to pay any state or death taxes owed by the estate.
The pernicious activity of identity theft reaches even beyond the grave of a deceased person. One favored activity of con artists in Texas and throughout the country is to steal the identity of a recently deceased individual. If they can access his bank accounts and existing credit cards, they can make a big score against a presumably defenseless victim. However, if you are the immediate next of kin and/or the person legally in charge of the estate administration, you can take quick action to try and prevent this from happening.
In Texas and elsewhere similar familial dramas tend to play out in a small percentage of estates. When an individual dies, the estate administration process is commenced and administered by the personal representative, who is usually a child or other close relative appointed in the will. The representative, or executor of the will, is charged with paying the bills, collecting the assets, making all government filings and tax returns, and ultimately distributing the assets according to the will.
In Texas and other states it’s not uncommon for the beneficiaries of a deceased family member to ask the attorney handling the estate when the estate will be finalized. In fact, legal experts say that it’s normal for beneficiaries to ask the attorney to explain the process of estate administration and for a ballpark estimate on time. Having a communicating relationship with counsel and the executor is a wise thing to do.
In Texas and elsewhere, single and childless individuals may have considerable wealth yet be perplexed how to distribute it during and after death. There are 17 million unmarried Americans over age 65. Additionally, young people who amass relatively high wealth prior to marriage or having children are more prominent than before. This puts a lot of people in the same category: they need to have an estate plan so that the state does not administer and take their assets arbitrarily after their death. An orderly estate administration should be set in place for one’s appointed executor to distribute assets according to the decedent’s wishes.