Most people do not wish to dwell on the idea of their death. This often leads people to delay hiring an attorney to put together an estate plan. Unfortunately, accidents and disease sometimes take those we love unexpectedly and before they have all their affairs in order. If someone in your family passes away without drafting and executing a valid will, what will happen to their possessions?
Texas intestacy law
Intestacy is the legal term used to describe dying without a valid will. If someone passes away before they have created a will, or if the court determines that their will is not valid, then the court will apply Texas intestacy law to determine what to do with the deceased person’s assets.
The clearest and easiest scenario is when an intestate person leaves behind a surviving spouse. In that case, everything that was marital property typically becomes the sole property of the surviving spouse. Everything that was the deceased’s individual property also passes to the spouse through the probate process. There is an exception to this rule if the deceased had children that aren’t also the children of the surviving spouse, such as from a previous marriage.
Dying without a surviving spouse
If your loved one passed without a will and did not have a spouse that survived them, then Texas law designates a chain of priority that establishes the order in which family members of the deceased will receive the estate.
If the deceased had children or grandchildren, the estate would go first to them. If there are no surviving children or grandchildren, then the deceased’s parents are next in line. If only one parent survived the deceased, then the estate would be divided between the surviving parent and the deceased’s siblings, nieces and nephews. With no surviving parents, the siblings, nieces and nephews receive the estate. Surviving grandparents are next in line.
Losing a loved one is an extremely painful event. If they did not leave a will, it can add to the stress and heartache as you struggle to figure out what to do with their estate while you are mourning them. Luckily, Texas’s intestacy laws are very specific, and will help you to know what to expect from the probate process.