You Shouldn't Put a Ring (or Name) on It

Beyoncè may have sang, “If you liked it, then you should have put on a ring on it,” but the same concept does not work when it comes to inheriting property. In this blog I will discuss the good and the bad ways of naming beneficiaries in your will.

The Grandparents' Method

How many of us have heard our parents or grandparents say this? “Just put your name on it if you want it when I pass away.” Perhaps it’s just my family. But, I don’t believe it is uncommon for older people to tell their children and grandchildren to just write their name on an item in the house that they would like to inherit.

Problems with the Grandparents' Method

If it were that simple everyone would do it and everyone would be happy. Unfortunately, that is not how the law or families work. One thing for sure is that when it comes to valuable or sentimental items, family members will argue and fight to acquire the items they want. Furthermore, writing a person’s name on an item is not a lawful way to distribute property upon your death.

Don't Be Too Vague

If you do not have a will (and one that gives those items to certain people), then the State of Texas will decide who receives the items. In your will, you will need to name an executor. The executor will divide your property as you have stated in your will. If you just write, “in equal shares” and don’t list specific property, then the names on the items inside your house can help your executor know how you want the property divided. However, the executor does not have to give the item to the person whose name is on it.

Other Ways

I’ve seen wills in which a grandfather directed the executor to place the names of all the grandsons in a hat. The grandson whose name was drawn received the grandfather’s rifle. This obviously assisted the executor in deciding who should receive the rifle. Had the will not set forth who should receive the rifle, then the executor would have had to select one grandson over the others. I’ve also seen family members negotiate and swap items after the executor had divided the property. A sure way to create a family circus is to be unclear in your will as to who should receive specific property.

The Better Way

If you know which items your family members would like to have upon your death, it is usually easier on everyone if you list the item and the person in the will. Instead of relying on the unenforceable “just put your name on it” approach, seek the assistance of an estate planning attorney.

Contact the Law Office of Hugh Spires, Jr. for a tailored will that provides for your family. Read more at