Nearly half of American adults don’t have a will. It’s usually one of those things you plan to get to eventually but somehow never find the time. When a loved one dies without a will in Texas, you unfortunately inherit a potentially difficult legal situation called “intestate succession.”
What is intestate succession?
While each state sets its own estate administration for situations when someone dies without a will, they essentially follow similar intestate succession laws.
Allowing estate administration to play out in court for every person that dies without a will would tie up the court system for years. To avoid this, intestate succession laws apply a fixed estate administration process. While this is far more efficient, it also means estates are sometimes distributed in a manner the deceased would not have liked.
And if you’re not thinking it already, if you or your family members don’t have a will prepared, make it a priority to avoid these situations.
How does intestate succession work?
In Texas, the hierarchy of estate distribution is roughly as follows:
- Your spouse, if any
- Your children, if any
- Surviving parents
- Children of siblings
If you have no surviving spouse, children, parents, siblings, nieces or nephews, your estate is divided in half. One half will go to the family on your mother’s side, the other to your father’s side. If there’s no surviving family on one side, the other side gets your entire estate.
In the unlikely event that you were never married, childless and have no surviving family on either side, your estate passes to the State of Texas.
If you are single with children, your estate will be split evenly among all your children. If you were preceded in death by a child, but that child has surviving children (your grandchildren) and you have other surviving children, your estate is split evenly among the surviving children, and the grandchildren will split the portion of the inheritance that would have gone to your deceased child.
If your estate is valued at less than $75,000, intestate succession laws are waived and surviving relatives can file a small estate affidavit asserting entitlement.
What happens when intestate succession is disputed
The main drawback of intestate succession laws is that they do not consider relationships. This means parts or all of your estate can go to disliked or estranged relatives and even an ex-spouse.
Again, the best way to ensure that your estate is distributed as you like, draw up a will as soon as possible.