All states have what are called intestacy laws, which govern how most property will be divided when an adult dies without a valid will. An important note in that description is that there must be a valid will. It is not enough that there is a will, the will must be enforceable under the testacy laws, which govern the administration of a will. Assuming there is no valid will, then the intestacy laws will govern the distribution of personal and real property for the decedent. Texas estate attorneys can help you prepare an enforceable will for your property.
Texas law on wills and estates
These laws are black and white laws. They will not allow for guessing or assuming what you might have wanted to happen when you died. They define a specific hierarchy of heirs who either take the inheritance owed to them or disclaim it. Generally, the laws look to give at least some of your property to your spouse first, then to your children. If there is no spouse and no direct descendants (e.g. your children or your grandchildren) then the laws will start looking up the family tree to your parents, siblings, nieces, nephews and so forth.
Texas property law
The rules become complicated for today’s modern family, especially here in Texas. For example, step-children have no property rights under the intestacy laws (unless adopted). Same sex couples can have very unique issues due to their status – or lack of status – under the law. Because Texas is a community property state it adds an additional layer of complexity to determining who gets what under the intestacy laws. (And keep in mind that any property in other states will fall under that state’s intestacy laws.) The result of these laws could be spouses, children, or other family members denied property.
Some property generally will not pass through either intestacy rules or a will. This typically only applies to property paid to a named beneficiary, such as life insurance or a 401k balance. These assets will pass through either intestacy or testacy rules if there is no named beneficiary. Allowing intestacy rules to determine the property division is often a dissatisfying result for the loved ones you leave behind.
Texas estate planning attorneys
Every person should have a will prepared by an estate planning attorney. There are low cost options to prepare wills like online form building websites but you won’t know if that will is enforceable or does what you intend until you pass away and it is too late to change the will. An estate planning attorney understands Texas law and can help you put together an estate plan and execute it in a will.