In Texas, if you die without a will, your property, including your real property and personal property, will be distributed according to Texas law. This may or may not be the way you want your property divided. It is possible that your siblings, parents, or grandchildren will not inherit anything. This is true even if all family members know that you wanted to leave a specific piece of personal property to a specific person.
If you die with a will and do not specify how you want your personal belongings divided, your Executor will have the option to liquidate and divide the value or distribute your personal belongings in whatever way they deem best.
For your personal property to be distributed according to your wishes, you must have a valid will that addresses any items where you have specific intentions.
Personal Property Defined
In Texas, personal property is everything a person owns that is not real property. This includes:
- Household goods.
- Bank accounts.
- Any other tangible or intangible item other than real property.
Personal Property in Your Will
When drafting your will, you have options about how to leave your personal property to your heirs. One way is to specifically reference an item of personal property and state who you want to receive that item upon your death.
For example, you can be broad and say, “I want my grandchild, Mary, to have all of my jewelry.” Or you can be specific and say, “I want my grandchild Mary to have my strand of pearls that I wore to her wedding.”
Bank accounts are a special case in Texas. Although most bank accounts will pass outside of a will and through a beneficiary designation or to a joint owner, those that pass to the Estate are considered personal property. In some states, bank accounts are considered mixed property, but in Texas only real property and personal property are recognized.
In a recent appellate court case, the court addressed the issue of the characterization of bank accounts. In re Estate of Hunt, 597 S.W.3d 912, 914 (Tex. App.—Houston [1st Dist.] 2020, no pet.). The will at issue stated, “I give all of my remaining household and personal property to Arabia Vargas.”
Other heirs contested the will, alleging that “personal property” did not include bank accounts. The court confirmed that the bequest of “all personal property” included tangible items and intangible items like bank accounts, and anything except real property.
It can be difficult to make sure your property passes the way you wish. Seek an attorney’s advice to make sure your will addresses your assets in the way you wish.
For more information about drafting wills in general and how to leave personal property to your heirs, contact Aubry Dameron at Springer & Lyle.