Welcome to the Kazi Law Firm! We are a boutique law firm steeped in Texas tradition personifying the warmth and congeniality consistent with southern hospitality. We believe in preserving integrity and professionalism with true Texan charm, staying true to our roots, while providing essential, affordable legal services to all. Located just north of Dallas, Texas in the rapidly growing suburb of Frisco; the Kazi Law Firm concentrates on contracts drafting and review, immigration law, will & estates, real estate law, landlord, tenant, mediation, and general business law needs.
Have you heard of the terms heir and beneficiary? Have you heard laypeople use the terms interchangeably? Well, these words have distinct definitions. The law has several different terms for people who inherit property from a deceased person’s estate, among which are “legatee,” “heir,” “beneficiary,” and “devisee.” Whether you’re making an estate plan or find yourself the beneficiary of one, understanding a few of the more frequently used inheritance terms can be very useful. Remember, this is merely a basic overview of the terms. It is strongly recommended that you reach out to an experienced Wills and Estates attorney to discuss your estate plan in more detail.
What is a Beneficiary?
According to probate law, a beneficiary is a person who receives property from an estate by being named as the recipient in a Will or a Trust. Beneficiaries can be anyone, as long as they are identified in a legal Trust or a Last Will and Testament. Wills and Trusts should be prepared by experienced wills and probate lawyers, such as the Kazi Law Firm.
What is an Heir?
An heir is a person who is identified as a legal recipient of estate property when no Will or Trust is available to assign that property. The probate courts determine heirs in the absence of any legal documents stating the wishes of the deceased, usually based on familial relationship, marriage, or another legally recognized relationship.
Simply put, an “heir” generally refers to blood relatives: children, parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, grandparents, uncles, and cousins, as well as the decedent’s surviving spouse and adopted children. Heirs are usually limited to those related by blood, adoption, or marriage.
The concept of heirs most often arises when someone dies intestate (without a Will). In this instance, state intestacy laws govern the distribution of the decedent’s property, following a line of intestate succession. State laws vary, but, in most jurisdictions including Texas, spouses and children inherit first. If a decedent had no spouse or children, usually parents inherit next, and so forth down the line of relatives.
Why is Knowing the Difference Paramount?
The most critical reason to understand the difference between an heir and a beneficiary is that it illustrates the need to plan an estate and ensure that property is passed to the decedent’s desired individuals. Assets that are incorrectly addressed or not addressed at all may be given to heirs, rather than beneficiaries. This often occurs when an estate owner does not correctly plan their estate by creating an estate plan with the help of a qualified attorney. A probate attorney will help decedents leave their property subject to a valid and legally binding Will that will successfully complete the probate process.
Why is Estate Planning Crucial?
The state of Texas is a probate state, meaning that a personal estate must go through the probate process after a person’s death. Probate is the means by which the state legally recognizes a person’s death, and approves the disbursement of their estate. It is a course of action that can be lengthy and complex; so seeking the help of probate lawyers from a respected Wills and Probate firm, such as the Kazi Law Firm, can help make the procedure less confusing. Your neighborhood Frisco, Texas probate attorneys understand how the probate process works and the correct distribution of assets depending on whether there is or is not a Will.
Most people are intimidated by the probate process, as it is time-consuming and involves the determination of a Will, legal heirs, and any claims made against estate assets. It also involves the liquidation of property, if necessary, to pay any debtor claims. It is critical for family members to seek the services of a law firm that works extensively with wills and probate to represent them throughout the probate process.
Texas Probate Process
Probate law in Texas is outlined in the Texas Estates Code, which provides a list of the steps that must be taken for the legal disbursement of an estate dependent on whether or not there is a legal Will. This process is designed to determine the rightful ownership of assets, and whether any debt is owed by the deceased that must be paid before assets can be distributed.
The first part of the probate process is establishing if there is a valid Will. The court must then determine the decedent’s legal heirs. Next, the court assigns an executor, or estate administrators, to work with experienced probate attorneys hired by the family to assist in the process. These acting administrators fulfill court requirements so that the probate process can formally begin.
Next, the estate administrator prepares an inventory of assets. This list of property owned by the deceased is then presented to the court. Probate lawyers must file this list with the court within 90 days of the assignment as the estate executor or administrator.
The final step is the determination of any outstanding debt left by the decedent, which must be paid from estate assets. The Estate Administrator must publish a public notice to any creditors of the estate, which is done in a local newspaper within the county overseeing the probate process. This notice informs any creditors owed money by the decedent that they can file a claim against the estate. Once any outstanding debt has been resolved, the court begins the process of disbursing remaining assets to heirs, based either on what a legal Will states or on the court’s determination of how the estate should be divided and disbursed.
Do you really want to give the state of Texas the power to determine how your estate should be disbursed? If you would like to retain that power even after death, it is crucial that you have a valid Will drafted by an experienced attorney. The grieving process after the passing of a loved one is already a stressful and agonizing journey, why add to their woes by dying intestate. Do yourself and your family a favor by having a Will drafted where your wishes are explicitly spelled out, removing all ambiguity from the onset.
I built my law practice on the premise of being a life raft in a sea of sharks. I want to be an advocate for those that have been wronged and are too intimidated to seek help. My firm is here to explore your options, guide you through your legal journey, and give you that safe space to ask questions! There’s no such thing as a stupid question…Only the ones you don’t ask. So, my question to my clients is not “do you have any questions?” But rather “what questions do you have?”
As always, the Kazi Law Firm is standing by to help you in your time of need. Don’t hesitate to contact us today. We specialize in real estate law, landlord-tenant disputes, immigration, and wills & estate planning. Family is at the core of our practice. Just as we treat our family with respect and understanding, we treat yours. Come join the Kazi Law Firm family today!
Why swim alone in shark-infested waters when you don’t need to?