The death of a loved one is always challenging. Yet, it may feel doubly so if you discover they were intestate. This designation means they lacked an estate plan, which can cause confusion and frustration among their kin. If this happens, it’s important for you to understand Texas’ intestacy laws as you help settle your loved one’s affairs.

How probate works

Most of your loved one’s assets and debts will pass through probate court if they did not have an estate plan. The court will appoint an administrator to gather and handle your loved one’s property. This person will also locate your loved one’s beneficiaries. Before any assets disburse, the administrator must repay your loved one’s debts. If these debts exceed the estate’s value, your loved one died insolvent and no assets will disburse. If the estate’s value exceeds its debts, the remaining assets will disburse among its beneficiaries.

Keep in mind that Texas probate courts follow different procedures for community property and separate property. If your loved one was married, all community property will go to their surviving spouse. The exception to this rule is if your loved one had children who were not their spouse’s. In this case, the spouse keeps their share of community property and the children will receive equal shares of the decedent’s half. Any separate property your loved one acquired before their marriage will disburse based on the state’s order of succession. And if they never married, all property they own will disburse following this order, too.

Exceptions to probate

Yet, some of your loved one’s assets can disburse without going through probate. They may have designated a beneficiary to a retirement account or insurance policy. If they did, the beneficiary can take ownership by contacting the companies that hold these. Your loved one might also have taken similar action with certain bank accounts. If they did, the accounts’ contents become payable on death to their beneficiary. To make the transfer happen, the beneficiary must present your loved one’s death certificate to the bank. Furthermore, Texas is among the states that recognize transfer on death deeds (TODD). If your loved one recorded a TODD, they have named the beneficiary to the real estate they owned, ensuring it avoids probate.

Your loved one’s intestacy can come with a variety of challenges. The complications that can arise make it crucial that you do not endure probate alone. An attorney who understands the process can help you through it.