What Happens if You Die Without a Will in Texas?
Although a will is an essential document of any estate plan, thousands of Texans die every year without one.
Nevertheless, the deceased person’s assets must be given to someone, and Texas law will step in and determine who receives them.
Read on to find out what happens if you die without a will in Texas.
Texas Intestate Laws
Someone who does not have a will dies “intestate.” Texas intestate succession laws determine who receives the property in the estate, which will depend on whether you are single and whether you have children. Let’s run through some common scenarios:
Married with children
If you die while married, then your surviving spouse does not necessarily receive everything. Instead, you will need to identify what property is “community property” and what is “separate property.” Community property is generally property you acquired while married and is divided as follows
- Your spouse will inherit all community property if you only have children with him or her.
- If you had children with another person, then your surviving spouse gets 50% of the community property and your children will divide the other 50%.
Separate property is a property you brought into the marriage or things you inherited solely while married. Texas intestacy laws divide separate property differently:
- Your surviving spouse gets one-third of your separate personal property and a life estate in one-third of your separate real property (real estate). Your children receive the rest of the separate property.
- If you are married without descendants, your spouse receives all separate personal property. However, any surviving parents and siblings will be entitled to one half of your real property, with your spouse getting the other half.
Single but with children
If you are single but have children when you die, then your estate passes as follows:
- Your children will divide the estate equally among them.
- However, if one of your children died before you, then their descendants (your grandchildren) can receive the share intended for their parent. For example, you might have had two children, Amy and Ben. Ben died before you but left two children, Cathy and Damon. At your death, Amy will receive 50% and Cathy and Damon will divide their father’s share and receive 25% each.
Childless and unmarried
If you are single and do not have children, the following distribution rules apply if you die without a will in Texas:
- If both parents are alive, then they will receive the entire estate equally.
- If only one parent is alive, and you do not have any siblings, then your remaining parent receives the entire estate.
- If you have one surviving parent but also siblings or nieces/nephews, then your surviving parent receives 50% of the estate and the remaining 50% is divided by your siblings or their descendants.
- If neither parent is alive, then your entire estate passes to your siblings or their descendants equally.
- If no parents or siblings are alive, then the estate is divided in half and 50% goes to maternal kindred and 50% goes to paternal kindred. These are lineal descendants from your grandparents and includes aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.
In the event you have absolutely no relatives living, the state of Texas will happily take your estate.
Why You Need an Estate Plan
Even if you are happy to have your estate distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws, there are other reasons you need an estate plan. Dying without a will in Texas is not ideal. Instead, consider what you can accomplish in a comprehensive estate plan:
- You can create advance medical directives. A living will describes the treatment you want (and don’t want) in the event you become incapacitated and can no longer make decisions for yourself. A medical power of attorney will also name someone to make decisions for you in the event of incapacity.
- You can appoint guardians for minor children in a will.
- You can appoint the person who will oversee the probate. If you don’t appoint someone in a will, then the probate judge will have to name someone.
- You might reap tax advantages if you leave assets in a trust, which you can create with a Texas estate planning attorney.
- You can limit how your heirs access your funds by creating a spendthrift trust.
These are only some components of a comprehensive estate plan. Your needs may vary, but you must meet with an estate planning lawyer in Texas to find out your best options.
Inheritance dispute? Talk to an attorney today.
At Lindquist Wood Edwards, our will contest attorneys will fight for your interests to secure what you’re entitled to. To schedule your free consultation, please call 214-760-6893 or submit anonline message.