When a person dies without a will in Texas, their estate will be distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws. These laws dictate who will inherit the deceased person’s property and assets, and in what order of priority.
First, one might think that any property owned jointly with a right of survivorship, such as a jointly owned home, will automatically pass to the surviving joint owner. However, in Texas this is not true. Home ownership does not automatically pass to the next person, unless there was already a Transfer on Death Deed in Place (TODD).
This means that being joint owner with your spouse, only indicates that both of you own one half of the property, the deceased spouse’s share does not automatically belong to the surviving spouse under intestacy laws. In fact, depending on your family make up, it could cause the surviving spouse to become a co-owner with their step-children.
Unlike a house, assets with a named beneficiary, such as life insurance policies, retirement accounts, or payable-on-death bank accounts, will pass directly to the designated beneficiary. These are also assets that pass outside of probate.
The house, however, will have to be distributed like all other remaining assets based on the deceased person’s family structure.
If the deceased person was married with no children, all assets may not go to the surviving spouse, because Texas intestacy laws, do leave assets to a decedent’s parents or siblings in case of no children.
If the deceased person was married with children, the surviving spouse will receive their share of the community property (property acquired during the marriage) and 1/3rd share of the Community property and one-third of separate property in the form of a life estate (property owned before the marriage or acquired by gift or inheritance). The remaining two-thirds of separate and community property will go to the children or their descendants.
If the deceased person was not married but had children, all assets will go to the children or their descendants. If there are no surviving children or descendants, then the assets will go to the deceased person’s parents, and if they are also deceased, then to the deceased person’s siblings or their descendants. If there are no surviving siblings or descendants, the assets will be distributed to the deceased person’s grandparents, and so on down the line of inheritance.
If the deceased person has no surviving relatives, then the assets will pass to the state of Texas.
It’s important to note that the distribution of assets according to the intestacy laws may not align with the deceased person’s wishes. For example, if the deceased person was unmarried but had a long-term partner, that partner would not inherit anything under the intestacy laws. Additionally, if the deceased person had minor children, the court will appoint a guardian for them, which may not be the person the deceased person would have chosen.
Having a will is crucial to ensuring that your assets are distributed according to your wishes and that your loved ones are taken care of after your death. If you do not have a will, it’s important to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney to understand your options and