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Last Will and Testament

Sean Breen

Death: Its not something we like to talk about, but it is something we need to prepare for.

In Texas, if you die without leaving a will, the state will decide how to divide your property.

Though your family will not be left out, your death might leave them with a living nightmare.

After nearly 50 years of marriage, Austin resident Ruth Brown is the kind of person who seems prepared for just about anything life can bring.

“The only place he ever went on his leaves was up to Denmark — he never got to see anything else,” she said of her husband.

Ruth met her future husband in her native Denmark while Clifford Brown was serving in the U.S. Army.

After raising three daughters, the couple moved to Texas, retiring in Killeen.

“Cliff wanted to live close to a military base, so we moved there,” she said. Yet their golden years were cut short in December 2005. “I had about 10 days to get used to the idea he was dying from the cancer he had gotten,” Brown said. “You are not quite stable emotionally and functionally and mentally and everything, because it is a shock.”

Clifford Brown had prepared his will years ago when he and his wife lived in Maine. “He wrote it out the way we wanted it,” Ruth Brown said. “There OK, were all set, so we never thought of it again after that.”

When Brown tried to sell her husbands car, the title was only in his name. It had been signed in another state, so it was not recognized in Texas. “And I said, What am I supposed to do now?” she recalled.

After six months of legal hassles, Brown finally learned she had to draw up a new will that would be valid in Texas. “And it cost me for the lawyer $1,100!” she said. “They made out a will for me thats supposed to be valid here in Texas, but its ridiculous!”

Her experience is hardly an uncommon story.

“Things can pop up years after somebody dies, a piece of property, you’d be surprised,” said lawyer Sean Breen. Breen said every Texan should start now in order to draw up a valid will. “It’s not a very fun subject, by any means, but its less fun for the people left behind who are trying to deal with a rat’s nest than it is to take a little time, a little money, go see a lawyer, get it all handled,” Breen said.

“Trust me, at a time like that, you do not need that extra hassle and that frustration and confusion,” Brown said.

Some lawyers estimate 70 percent of Americans do not have a will prepared. A simple will made out by an attorney can cost around $200.

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