What Happens When You Die Without an Estate Plan in Texas?

Best case scenario: Your estate pays higher court fees and attorney’s fees.

Worst Case Scenario: Certain loved ones get disinherited and family relationships get destroyed.

Having a proper estate plan is critical to ensuring that your assets are passed as you intended and that your loved ones don’t have to go through unnecessary hardship after your passing. Despite this, an estimated one-third of Americans today don’t have any estate planning documents. If you die without a valid will, how your wealth is divided up will be determined by your state’s intestacy law. This article will seek to explain intestacy law is and what happens when you die with an estate plan in Texas.

Intestacy Laws

Intestacy laws govern how a person’s assets will be distributed after their death if they did not carry a will. Theoretically, it is meant to closely represent how an average person might have carried out the transfer if they had an estate plan. In practice, of course, the intention, values, and life history of each person is different and a deed carried out under an intestacy succession would have diverged widely from how the person right might have wanted it.

All 50 US states feature some form of intestacy laws. However, the details of it can vary from state to state. Laws dictating what happens when a person dies without a will could be different than what is here in Texas. For instance, some states such as Iowa and New Jersey charge an inheritance tax on transfers, while states where common law dictates marriage union might have different inheritance settlement regarding spouse and children. Therefore, if you are residing in another state, it is highly crucial that you make yourself aware of the local intestacy laws.

If You Are Single

If you are single and die without a will, by default, your assets will be distributed as follows, in order of precedent.

Your Children

If you are single and have children (e.g. through legal adoption or past relationship), then they will inherit all your assets once you pass away, being divided equally among them. If any of your children was predeceased before you and left descendants of their own, then the share they might have received, had they been alive, instead will be transferred and divided among their children (or grandchildren).

Your Parents

If you are survived by both or one of your parents and you have no children or grandchildren of your own then all your assets will be distributed to your parents.

Your Siblings and Their Descendants

If case you are also survived by your siblings or their descendants, then one half of your estate will go to your parents and the other half will be divided among your siblings or their descendants. In case you have no descendants and both of your parents had not survived, all of the estate will be transferred to them.

Your Extended Family

In case you are not survived by your descendants, your parents, your siblings, or their descendants then your estate will be divided into two halves, one going to your relatives on your mother’s side and the other going to your relatives on your father’s side. In order of precedence, it is as follows – your grandparents, their descendants, their descendant’s descendants, and so on.

The State

If in the extremely rare case you died single and not survived by anyone then your asset will be taken over by the State of Texas. It is also important to know that anyone not related by blood or union such as your friend or live-in partner is not considered eligible for a share in inheritance without a will.

If You are Married

Community Property

In Texas, most married couples estates will likely be treated under community property law when it comes to who inherits what. Community law dictates that all assets acquired during a marriage belong equally to both members of the union. As such, after you pass away, the whole of it doesn’t automatically get passed on to your surviving spouse if you have had children from former relationships. Instead, your spouse only gets their ½ of the community property, 1/3rd of your separate property and the right to use your real estate for life. The children get everything else, including your half of the community estate. It is so astronomically important to do proper estate planning if you have a blended family with children from a prior relationship.

Separate Property

In regards to the rest of your estate, that you had built up before your marriage or acquired by gift or inheritance, the rules of transfer are as follows:

Spouse and Children

Two-third of your separate property will be divided among your surviving descendants. Your spouse will receive the remaining one-third of the assets as a life estate, which basically means that their entitlement to it ends once they pass away. After their death, it would get passed to your surviving children.

Spouse and No Children, but with Surviving Parents

In case you were survived by your spouse and had no children, then one-half of your separate real property goes to your parents, meaning your real estate gets split.

The rules get exhaustive and exhausting and complex. Needless to say, you can avoid dire situations simply by doing some estate planning up front. If you don’t do it, or if you do it yourself and do it wrong, the consequences could be catastrophic for some of your loved ones.

Get Expert Help on Estate Planning

If you want full control over how your assets get transferred after your death, then a proper estate planning document is necessary. Two of the biggest hurdles people state that prevents them from having an estate plan is the expense and lack of knowledge regarding the laws of their state. Our team of estate planning lawyers can help guide you through the complex process and ensure that you receive enormous value from the estate plan that we create together. For details regarding our service or packages or any further inquiries, please call 888-407-2407. Our Texas Estate Planning Attorneys would be honored to discuss your estate plan with you. We take away the anxiety and procrastination of estate planning so that you get your plan in place quickly and painlessly. We don’t want you to die without a Will.

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Mike Massey JD, MBA, MPA just might be the 195th most interesting person in Texas. He has 4 college degrees and he's working on a 5th:  BBS Accounting; MPA Master's in Professional Accounting; JD Law Degree; MBA Master's in Business Administration; BBS in Biblical Studies (in progress).

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