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What happens if a family member dies without a will in Texas?

| Dec 29, 2020 | Estate planning |

When a Texas resident dies without a will, state laws govern the division of that person’s estate property. A family member starts the process by filing a petition for probate with the clerk in the county where the person lives.

Review the factors that govern the probate process when someone dies without a valid will.

Nonprobate property

Some items pass immediately to designated beneficiaries whether or not the deceased person had a will. Examples include assets owned with someone else, bank accounts with a payable on death designation, funds in a qualifying retirement or pension account, life insurance benefits, and property held in a living trust.

Intestate succession laws

Property that does not fall into the categories above will first go toward estate expenses, debts and creditor claims. The court will allocate the remainder of the estate assets based on Texas intestate laws as follows:

  • The person’s spouse gets everything if the person has no children or surviving parents or siblings.
  • The person’s children divide everything if he or she has no surviving spouse.
  • The person’s parents divide everything if he or she has no children or surviving spouse or siblings.

Succession becomes more complicated with multiple survivors. For example, when the deceased person has a surviving spouse and children from the same marriage, the spouse gets all community property, the right to use real estate for life and a third of separate property. The children divide the remaining two-thirds of the deceased person’s separate property.

When families communicate about estate planning, they avoid these complex situations and the extended probate that can result.