Astute persons realize that executing a will makes sense even for single individuals. In fact, from the perspective of the estate planning attorney, working with single persons is often more challenging than working with married couples, regardless of whether they have children. The single person may have difficulty determining who they want to name as beneficiaries or designate to serve as executor under their will.
The question this post addresses is what that single person should do if they marry. The answer, as you might expect, is to update the will as soon as possible after the marriage.
It is not unusual for a single person to leave their estate to their parents or siblings. But if that will is not changed after marriage and before death, how is the surviving spouse treated? Do they inherit because they are were married to the decedent? In Texas, the answer is a qualified “no.”
Some states have laws recognizing a pretermitted spouse. Those laws provide that if a person marries after making a will that omits his or her spouse, the surviving spouse will inherit a share of the estate equal to that which the surviving spouse would have received if the testator had died without any will. If such a law existed in Texas that would mean that the surviving spouse would inherit all of the couple’s community property and usually half of the decedent’s separate property.
But Texas doesn’t have a law recognizing a pretermitted spouse. So in the case described above, the surviving spouse in Texas would retain ownership of their own half of the community property but would receive nothing else from the decedent’s estate.
This example serves to illustrate why it is important to consult with your estate planning attorney any time you have a change in your family situation. In some instances and if your will is drafted appropriately, you may not need to make any changes to your will. But as illustrated in this example, there are many times when changes in your family situation can drastic repercussions on your estate plans. If you make a Will before you get married and would like your new spouse to be your beneficiary, it is important that you update your will.