Who Inherits Property in Texas Without a Will?
We have discussed in the past the importance of estate planning early and often. Drafting a will and otherwise preparing for what happens when you are gone is the best way to ensure that your property is doled out according to your desires and expectations after your death. If you do not have a will, however, or if you have property or other assets that are not covered by your will for one reason or another, Texas does have a system in place that dictates where your property will go. The Texas probate process includes provisions for “intestate succession,” which is the set of rules by which your estate is divided up when you do not have a valid will. How your property is distributed is determined by a combination of factors including whether you are married, whether you have children, whether you have other living relatives, and the nature of the property being distributed.
Married person with children
If you are married with children, then your spouse will generally take control of your property after your death. For separate property (property that is not part of your shared marital estate) real estate, your spouse will have a “life estate.” That means they take control until they pass, at which point the property will be divided equally among your children. For non-real estate assets, two-thirds go to your children and one-third goes to your surviving spouse.
Your spouse will also take all of the community property shared between you and your spouse. If you have children from a previous marriage, they are entitled to half of any community property real estate and equal shares of other community property assets.
Single or widowed
Who takes property after the death of a single or widowed person depends on which family members survive. If only the mother and father survive, and the deceased has no children, then the mother and father take all the property in equal shares. If the deceased also has siblings, then half goes to the mother and father and the other half is divided among siblings. There are additional rules for more attenuated family connections if the deceased has no living siblings or parents.
If the deceased has any children, then the children will take the property in equal shares.
Married without children
In Texas, your spouse gets half of your separate property real estate. The remaining half will be divided up according to which other family members survive the deceased. For example, your mother and father will each take a quarter, or if you have living siblings, they will divide up either half or a quarter of the separate property real estate, depending on if your parents also survive you. If you have no surviving parents or siblings, your spouse will take all of your separate property real estate. The remainder of your non-real estate separate property generally goes to your surviving spouse.
Believe it or not, the rules can be even more complicated than they appear at first glance. A seasoned Texas probate attorney can help ensure that the probate process is as fair and equitable as possible. In Harris County, Texas, contact the Stephens | Domnitz | Meineke PLLC to schedule a consultation for probate administration. Our Texas probate lawyer will work with you to best effect the desires of the deceased and wade through the complicated court proceedings in a way that is tailored to your needs and goals.