When a person dies with a legally valid will, their property is distributed according to their wishes as outlined in the will. However, when an individual dies without a will, the estate is distributed to the decedent’s heirs according to Texas intestacy laws. Regardless of whether there is a will in place, the process of distributing the deceased’s assets is called probate. However, the Houston probate process is often expensive and time-consuming.
Probate is the process in which a court recognizes a person’s death, resolves their debts, and distributes their property. For individuals with a will in place, this is a simple process where the judge recognizes the validity of the will and handles the property according to the decedent’s wishes. However, without a will, the process is a lot more complicated. In Texas, the distribution of property is determined by how closely a person was related to the decedent. In these cases, the nature and quality of the relationship are irrelevant. Sometimes, the decedent’s assets are not distributed according to their desires.
The question of who receives a decedent’s property and assets without a will in place depends on what living relatives the person left behind. There are specific requirements in Texas, so a probate judge will follow these rules regardless of the relationship between the decedent and these individuals. If a decedent is survived by a spouse and children – and all the children are also children of the surviving spouse – any property jointly owned by the spouses is is passed to the surviving spouse. The children get 2/3 of any property solely owned by the deceased, and the surviving spouse gets the other third. However, if the decedent’s children are not also the surviving spouse’s children, the surviving children receive half of the decedent’s joint property, and the spouse receives the other half. If a decedent only has surviving parents, each parent receives one-half of the assets. As is apparent in these examples, a probate judge cares not about the decedent’s personal relationships, but rather the orderly distribution of property at death.
Dying without a will may trigger these undesired results and others, including unexpected costs and delays. The hassle can ultimately be avoided by drafting a will. This ensures a person’s assets will be distributed according to their wishes, rather than a probate court judge’s determination.
Because the Houston probate process can be very complicated, it is helpful to contact an attorney when an individual has specific questions about whether they will have to go to probate court, and how they may avoid it.
Contact a Houston Estate Planning Attorney
If you or a loved one needs help creating a Houston estate plan, contact the Houston attorneys at McCulloch & Miller, PPLC. With decades of experience drafting wills and estate plans, we will create the estate plan that is right for you and your family. If you have a loved one that recently passed away without a will, we can also represent you in probate court. Although this is never an ideal situation, we will help you navigate this process. To speak to a knowledgeable estate planning attorney today, call us at 713-333-8900.