What Happens When Someone Dies Without a Will?

When someone in Texas dies without a valid will, it triggers a legal process known as intestate succession. Intestate succession governs how the deceased person’s estate will be distributed among their heirs. The Estate includes any real estate or personal property the deceased owned. In the absence of a will, the state’s laws dictate who will inherit the deceased person’s property and assets. The process can vary depending on the family structure and relationships of the deceased individual. 

The important thing to understand: When someone dies intestate, it means the state will make the decision on how their assets are distributed. If you want to protect your assets and make sure that your wishes are fulfilled on your passing, it is imperative that you have a will. Petraborg Attorneys specializes in estate planning and wills at all income levels.

Here’s what typically happens when someone in Texas dies without a will:

Identification of Heirs: The first step is to determine who the legal heirs of the deceased person are. Texas intestate succession laws prioritize blood relatives, and the process aims to identify the closest surviving family members, such as a spouse, children, parents, and siblings.

Spouse and Children: If the decedent is survived by a spouse but no children, the spouse generally inherits the entire estate. If there is a surviving spouse and children, the estate is divided between them. The spouse is entitled to a one-third share of the personal property and a life estate in one-third of the real property. The remaining two-thirds are divided among the children.

Parents: If there is no surviving spouse or children, the estate passes to the decedent’s parents. If only one parent survives, they inherit the entire estate. If both parents are deceased, the estate goes to the decedent’s siblings.

Siblings: If there are no surviving spouse, children, or parents, the estate is distributed among the decedent’s siblings. If any of the siblings has predeceased the decedent, their share is typically passed on to their children (nephews and nieces of the decedent).

Other Relatives: If there are no surviving close relatives as mentioned above, the estate may pass to more distant relatives, such as grandparents, aunts, uncles, or cousins, depending on the specific family situation.

Non Traditional and Blended Families

It’s important to note that stepchildren, foster children, and non-blood-related individuals are generally not considered legal heirs under intestate succession laws in Texas.

The intestate process can become more complex when there are blended families, non-marital partners, or disputes among potential heirs. In such cases, it’s advisable to seek legal assistance to ensure that the distribution of the estate follows the applicable laws and accurately reflects the deceased person’s intentions.

Additionally, when someone dies intestate, the court will appoint an administrator to oversee the estate’s administration. The administrator’s responsibilities include identifying and gathering the deceased person’s assets, paying any outstanding debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to the rightful heirs according to the intestate laws. This process is called Probate. It can be long and difficult, especially if the heirs are waiting on an inheritance for financial support.

Naming a beneficiary on a life insurance policy or other asset may allow the heirs to avoid probate and have access to funds more immediately. Petraborg Attorneys can advise where this is appropriate.

Unintended Consequences of Intestacy (Not having a will)

It’s worth noting that intestacy can lead to unintended consequences, as the distribution may not align with the deceased person’s wishes or family dynamics. To avoid these potential issues, Petraborg Attorneys strongly encourages every adult to create a valid will that clearly outlines their intentions for the distribution of their assets, the care of minor children, and other important matters. We can help you draft and execute a will to avoid the problems associated with intestacy. 

In conclusion, when someone in Texas dies without a will, their estate goes through the intestate succession process, which determines how their property and assets will be distributed among their legal heirs. The process prioritizes blood relatives and follows a specific hierarchy of distribution, from surviving spouses and children to more distant relatives. Intestate succession can be complex, especially in cases involving non-traditional family structures, making it crucial for individuals to create a comprehensive will to ensure their wishes are carried out and to simplify the process for their loved ones.

Contact Petraborg Attorneys regarding all matters related to family law, our Fair Family Divorce program and other legal matters at 832-698-1306, located in Spring, Texas.

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