If you die without a will in Texas, state law creates one for you. The Texas laws of intestate succession determine who inherits property if there is no will and how much they get. Unfortunately, this may have unwanted consequences. In this blog, we briefly summarize the rules of inheriting property without a will in Texas.
Who Inherits Property If There Is No Will?
When a person passes away without creating a valid will, Texas laws of intestate succession apply. The law determines who can inherit your property if there is no will. Let’s look at a few scenarios to show how the law works.
Decedent Is Married
It’s a false assumption that the surviving spouse gets everything when their husband or wife dies. Factors like how the property is characterized and whether or not you have children together impact who inherits the assets.
Spouses can own two types of property: community and separate property. Community property includes almost any property acquired during a marriage.
Under Texas law, the surviving spouse inherits all community property if the children belong to both spouses. If you have a blended family, your spouse keeps their half of the community property, and your half goes to your children. If you have no children, then your surviving spouse gets all of the community property.
Separate property is the property that either spouse owned prior to marriage or that was acquired during the marriage by gift or inheritance. The rules for dealing with separate property are a bit trickier. For example, separate property is further divided into real and personal property, and different rules apply to each type. We recommend speaking with one of our probate lawyers to understand how the law applies to your specific situation.
Decedent Is Single with Children
If a person without a spouse dies, leaving children behind, all property passes to the surviving children in equal shares. The rules change a bit if the decedent also has grandchildren. If only grandchildren survive, then the property is distributed equally to them. However, if both children and grandchildren survive the decedent, the estate is split differently.
For example, let’s say the decedent has three children. When the decedent dies, two of his children are still alive, and the third who passed away left two children (i.e., the decedent’s grandchildren). The decedent’s two children each receive one-third of the estate, and the grandchildren will split their parent’s one-third.
Decedent Is Single with No Children
When a single person dies without any surviving children, their estate passes in the following order:
- If both parents survive the decedent, they inherit the entire estate in equal shares;
- If one parent survives and the decedent has no siblings, the surviving parent inherits everything;
- If one parent survives and the decedent has siblings or nieces and nephews, the surviving parent inherits one-half of the estate, and the remaining half goes to the siblings or their children;
- If no parents survive the decedent, the entire estate goes to the siblings or nieces and nephews in equal shares;
- If there are no surviving parents, siblings, nieces, or nephews, half of the estate goes to relatives of the decedent’s maternal side, and the other half goes to relatives of the decedent’s paternal side;
- If there are no surviving relatives on either the maternal or paternal side, the surviving side of the family inherits the entire estate; and
- If there are no surviving relatives on either side of the decedent’s family, the state gets the estate.
What happens under the law may not have been the decedent’s first choice. It also opens the door for litigation when the time comes to administer the estate.
Not All Property Passes Under the Laws of Intestacy
Texas intestate succession laws only apply to “probate assets.” These are assets solely in the name of the decedent that would have passed under a will. The law does not apply to assets like proceeds of a life insurance policy, payable-on-death bank accounts, retirement accounts, and property with a joint owner. These “non-probate assets” automatically transfer to the co-owner or named beneficiary whether or not there’s a will.
Robbins Estate Law Can Help
Whether you’re considering writing a will or dealing with an estate where the decedent died intestate, it’s important to know who gets the property if there is no will. At Robbins Estate Law, we know the intricacies of Texas intestate succession law. Our priority is helping families and navigating them through complex legal situations. To speak to an attorney, call our office, or go online to request a free consultation.