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What happens if someone dies without a will in Texas?

On Behalf of | Mar 6, 2023 | Estate Planning

It is easy for someone to tell themselves that they will put together an estate plan next month or next year. As a result, some people who haven’t yet created a will or trust might die before they take decisive action on the matter. It is quite common for people in various personal and financial circumstances to die in Texas without an estate plan on record.

Both those who are thinking about putting together an estate plan and those who are worried that a loved one might die without one can benefit from understanding what happens to the estates of those who don’t plan in legally-enforceable ways before their death.

Texas has special laws for those who die without wills

If an individual dies without a will or trust to explain their wishes regarding their property, they have died intestate. As with any other adult, the property in their name becomes the property of their estate, and their financial obligations also pass to their estate. However, instead of choosing their own executor to handle their affairs and determining what happens with their property, those who die without a will leave all of the major decisions involved to the state of Texas.

Intestate succession laws give specific inheritance rights to legal and biological family members. If a married adult dies without a will, their spouse has very strong rights to the property from their estate. Children also have certain inheritance rights. When someone dies without a spouse or children, other family members, like parents, might inherit from their estate. The goal is to allow the closest family members to retain as much of the estate as possible after fulfilling someone’s remaining financial obligations.

Intestate succession strips someone of control

Although there are certain rules that apply to the distribution of personal property even when an estate plan is in place, such as marital rights for spouses, an adult who creates a will or trust largely has control over what happens to their property after they die.

People can leave resources for charitable causes that matter to them or leave assets to friends as well as family. Those who do not draft estate planning documents effectively give up control over the legacy they leave when they die. Creating an estate plan early and then making updates when appropriate is often the safest strategy for those who want to leave property for beneficiaries other than their closest family members.