Although creating a will in Texas may not seem vital in the moment, passing away without having a will in place can have major consequences. Intestate succession laws dictate where a person’s assets and property go if they die without a will. There are many rules surrounding intestate succession. While these are only a few, below are commonly asked questions about what happens when a person passes away without a will or estate plan in place.
What Assets Are Impacted by Intestate Succession?
When a person dies without a will, their assets will go to their closest relatives. However, not all assets are affected by intestate succession laws. These non-affected assets include life insurance proceeds, funds in a retirement account, and property jointly owned. For these assets, they will pass onto the surviving co-owner, or named beneficiary, even when there is no will in place.
The general rule is that only assets that would have been included in a potential will are impacted by intestate succession laws. This typically means assets only owned by the individual, not jointly, will be affected.
Who Gets the Assets When There Is No Will?
The question of who receives a deceased person’s property and assets, without a will in place, depends on what living relatives the person left behind. Under intestate succession, a person’s children will inherit all property and assets if the person did not have a spouse. However, if the person had a spouse as well as children, who are also the children of the spouse, the spouse will inherit all of the community property, plus 1/3 of their deceased partner’s personal property; the children inherit everything else.
As is apparent in the previous example, intestate succession depends on whether spouses owned property separately or jointly. Generally, joint property, also called community property, is property acquired while married; separate property is that acquired before the marriage.
When Will the State Receive A Person’s Property and Assets?
People commonly fear that if they die without a will, all of their assets and property will be given to the state. However, this rarely occurs. A person’s property will only be forfeited to the state if they die without any living relatives. Texas law requires that any relative, including a spouse, children, grandchildren, cousins, nieces, and nephews, will receive the deceased person’s property before it is passed to the state. That said, those who pass on without a will lose any ability to direct what will happen with their assets.
There are many rules surrounding intestate succession. Regardless of the amount of assets an individual owns, or the number of family members they have, it is important to have a will in place. An experienced Houston estate planning attorney can provide great assistance in these situations and help avoid these complicated issues.
Contact a Houston Estate Planning and Probate Attorney
If you or a loved one needs help creating a will, or solving the problems that arise after a person dies without a will, contact the dedicated Houston estate planning attorneys at McCulloch & Miller, PLLC. With decades of experience creating wills for a diverse set of clients, our knowledgeable lawyers will be able to help you with compassion and ease. To discuss your situation and speak with an attorney, contact us at 713-333-8900 to schedule a free consultation.