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Passing Away Without a Will: Intestate Succession in Texas

As you enter your gray years or after you have accrued a noticeable sum of money and assets, you should think about creating a will as part of your estate plan. This legal tool will be invaluable to your loved ones as they figure out who gets what inheritances and how specific assets should be managed after you pass away. However, sometimes the opportunity to create a will comes and goes before one is actually drafted and signed. What happens then?

Texas Intestate Succession Laws

When a person passes away without create a will, it is known as intestate succession. Any asset or property that would have been included in a typical will can be subjected to Texas’s intestate succession laws. Anything that would not be covered in a will are not.

Some assets that probably won’t be affected by intestate succession are:

  • Property put into a trust
  • Finances gathered from life insurance policies
  • 401(k), IRA, and retirement funds
  • Bank accounts labeled “payable-on-death”
  • Real property held in joint tenancy

As far as everything else, the state will step in and distribute property and assets based on its own laws. This is clearly not an ideal situation as there is nothing personal about it. In many intestate succession proceedings, people are disgruntled to find that they did not inherit something they were certain would be deemed for them had a will been created.

Without a will, the following will happen to assets subject to state distribution law:

  • Child inherits everything: Decedent passes away with children but no living spouse, parent, or sibling.
  • Spouse inherits everything: Decedent passes away with spouse but no living child, parent, or sibling.
  • Parent inherits everything: Decedent passes away with parent but no child, spouse, or sibling.
  • Sibling inherits everything: Decedent passes away with sibling but no child, spouse, or parent.

Situations get more complicated as more surviving family members are added. If a decedent passes away with a spouse and children, for example, the spouse will gain all of the community property and one-third of the separate property, and all else will go to the children. Another example is passing away with a spouse and parents, in which the spouse inherits all community property, all separate property, and half of separate real estate, and parents get what is left.

As it can be seen, intestate succession benefits no one. Even if things work out in the end, it was merely by luck of the draw. Better to start planning now and avoid complications that will frustrate your loved ones after you are gone.

Contact Adams Law Firm to speak with a Katy probate and estate planning lawyer today.