What happens if our mom passed without a Will and didn’t list beneficiaries on her investment accounts?

UPDATED: Jan 19, 2011

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What happens if our mom passed without a Will and didn’t list beneficiaries on her investment accounts?

Our mother’s verbal wishes were that her invested money (in her name only) be split 4 ways, between her 3 daughters and her husband (our step-father). Our step-father’s attorney says that even if we all agree we want the money split 4 ways (which our step-father says he agrees to), the only way it can be taken to probate court is the way that TXlaw states that it will be split – 1/3 to our step-father, 2/3 to be divided between the sisters. Is this true? Could an attorney help us to get the money split 4 ways in probate court, so we can get it taken care of all at once?

Asked on January 19, 2011 under Estate Planning, Texas


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 12 years ago | Contributor

Unfortunately, "verbal" (or  "oral") wishes have no legal effect whatsoever. A will must be written; must be in the correct form; and must be signed and witness properly to be enforceable. In the absence of an enforceable will, assets are distributed according to "intestate succession"--that is, according to the law. The law does generally provide for a mandated share (1/3 sounds right, for TX) to a surviving spouse and the balance to be split amongst surviving children, so what the attorney told you sounds correct. (You can "google" "Texas intestate succession" to find the rules.)

You step-father has no legal obligation to share, though he choose to give up part of his share to even things out. Note that if this is done, there may be some tax consequences to a subsequent division.

IMPORTANT NOTICE: The Answer(s) provided above are for general information only. The attorney providing the answer was not serving as the attorney for the person submitting the question or in any attorney-client relationship with such person. Laws may vary from state to state, and sometimes change. Tiny variations in the facts, or a fact not set forth in a question, often can change a legal outcome or an attorney's conclusion. Although AttorneyPages.com has verified the attorney was admitted to practice law in at least one jurisdiction, he or she may not be authorized to practice law in the jurisdiction referred to in the question, nor is he or she necessarily experienced in the area of the law involved. Unlike the information in the Answer(s) above, upon which you should NOT rely, for personal advice you can rely upon we suggest you retain an attorney to represent you.

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