One of the most common objections to estate planning is that person doesn’t need a plan because “everything’s going to my spouse anyway.” The person may go further to say their assets, such as bank accounts and property, are in both names, so the problem is solved.

Consider an example: Husband and Wife own a home, among other assets. Husband passes away, and Wife remains in the home. After living in the home for a few years, Wife decides to move to Austin to be closer to her children and grandchildren. Wife puts the house on the market and receives an offer quickly.

Husband’s interest in the home transfers to Wife immediately upon Husband’s death by virtue of the Texas intestacy statutes. But, without a process like probate, the title to the home remains in the name of both Husband and Wife. In order the title company to approve the sale, the home must be in Wife’s name only. Wife must now begin proceedings to transfer title. Not surprisingly, these proceedings require both time and money. The delay also means that Wife runs the risk of losing out on her offer.

But an estate plan is not just about protecting property. A comprehensive plan protects people as well. Proactive planning allows individuals to decide who will make financial and healthcare decisions for them in the event that they are unable to do so themselves. Parents have the opportunity to name guardians for their children if both pass away or are unable to care for the children. Families who plan ahead know the end-of-life wishes for their loved ones, and are not forced to make critical decisions in a vacuum. Planning ahead means peace of mind for all.