As I mentioned in my article Why Do I Really Need A Will? one of the main reasons you should have a will in place is to help prevent your estate and heirs from spending a lot more money on legal fees and court costs. This is especially true in Texas, because our laws allow for what is called “independent administration” of estates. If your will specifically requests independent administration then the executor will not need court approval every time he or she needs to sell property, pay expenses and distribute assets. In fact, most independent administrations only require one simple court hearing. Your will can likewise dictate that the executor doesn’t even need to post a bond. All of this saves time and legal expenses.
Dying without a will usually means there is a lot more court supervision in general. First of all there will likely need to be an heirship proceeding in court just to determine who the heirs are. And because there isn’t a will the court is required to appoint an attorney ad litem to represent the interests of all the unknown heirs. The heirship proceedings costs alone can get pretty high.
Then on top of that there is the whole issue of independent administration versus dependent administration. Again, if the court requires dependent administration then there is going to be much more court supervision which can get very time consuming and rack up huge legal bills. Now, if all the beneficiaries can agree to independent administration then the judge could possibly allow it. However if any of the heirs are minors then the courts are very unlikely to allow independent administration due to the law’s strong desire to protect the interests of minors. Likewise, oftentimes internal family issues can pop up during the process that prevent such an agreement anyway. The reality is that it can sometimes be pretty easy to have complex issues within your estate that cause disharmony between family members.