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What happens if I die without a will in Texas

Intestate succession is the process by which the assets are distributed for someone who died (decedent) without a Will.  In Texas, that process is governed by the Texas Estate Code. Judge Herman of the Travis County Probate Court created an Intestate Chart that helps to illustrate this discussion.

Unmarried Person: 
  • Property owned at death would first pass to his descendants, if any, and then to his parents.
  • If the unmarried decedent is survived only by one parent and siblings, his parent would receive half and his siblings would divide the remaining half.
  • If the unmarried decedent had no living parents or descendants, his property would pass entirely to his siblings.
  • If the decedent is not survived by descendants, parents or siblings, his property would be divided in half with one half distributed to his paternal grandparents and their descendants and the other half to the maternal grandparents and their descendants.
  • If the decedent is not survived by any heir, the State of Texas would receive the property.
Married Couple: For a married couple, the process is a bit more complex, because Texas is a community property state.  Community property is property acquired during marriage unless received by gift, under Will or by inheritance. Separate property is property acquired before marriage.
  • Without surviving descendants, the community property of the decedent would pass directly to the surviving spouse. The same result would occur if the couple had surviving children and all children were children of the couple, the surviving spouse.
  • If the decedent was survived by children not also children of the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse would retain her one half community property interest and the children of the decedent would inherit the decedent’s one half interest.

The division of separate property is more complex:

  • The decedent’s personal property (not real property) will pass one-third to the surviving spouse and two-thirds to the children (or all to spouse if no children survive).
  • If the decedent owned real property, the surviving spouse retains an interest in one-third of the real property for life and the rest of the property interest passes to the children of the decedent.
  • Where there are no surviving descendants, the spouse would inherit one half of the real property interest and the other half would pass to the parents and siblings of the decedent.

There are more scenarios for couples with children from another marriage, but hopefully this summary provides you with some background.  The Intestacy laws are rigid and harsh, but having a Will allows flexibility for distributing your assets.


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