Taking inventory is a pre-planning step to take when you're contemplating your estate plan. I've discussed this previously but I want to just take this time to hone in on inventorying. What I want you to do is take a look at all of your assets and put them in a category. Because many of you all may say, "Oh, I don't have much." Or, "Everything that I have is going to go to my wife or my spouse." But let's look at that because so many things affect property.
Types of Property
How did you get the property? Did you get the property as your own separate property? Is it community property? In Texas, if property is acquired while the parties are married then it's community properties. Which means the husband and the wife own one half interest of the whole. If it's a separate property, which means that, "Okay, I acquired this by inheritance or I got this property before I was married to you. And I didn't take any of my wages or your wages to pay rent or mow the grass” then this property is distinctly a separate property and not a community property.
Many of you may be familiar with this terminology because we borrow this language from family law; upon a divorce, which is a dissolution of a marriage. We have to look at the characterization of particular properties. And while we're thinking about estate planning, we still have to consider these family law terms, namely community property and separate property. Because death in and of itself dissolves the marriage, so therefore we have the carry over of characterizing property. So we're going to make several things. We're going to divide property up as to whether it's real property, personal property or intellectual property. And then we're going to also look at that property to see whether or not it was community property, or if it's separate property.
Children Affect Property
And then we want to take a look at the marital history. When we're making up this inventory, is this a person's only spouse? Or were there previous spouses? And not so much that I'm concerned about the previous spouses but what we're looking to see is if there are children from spouses or persons other than your current spouse. Because if the property is separate property, then it gets divided a little differently than it does than if it were community property. But you can avoid all of this characterization with having a will and just saying who gets what. Other children, like children outside of the marriage, do not come into play when we're talking about probating a will. But it does come into play if we are talking about not having a will and the person dying intestate.
Making Your Own Decisions
So that's my little primer on identifying assets. We sure can send you an inventory of forms so you can gather that information. It would be great for your own edification to know what you have, to characterize it, and to look and see about those children. Because that may be incentive enough for you to say, "Okay, I need to do a will and I need to designate A, B or C,” or, “I need to give it all to my cat." Or whatever your decisions are. But you want to be the person to make those decisions, as opposed to the court basically saying, "Okay, you didn't write a will, so this is what the statute says." Hope you find these tips helpful. Thank you.