It is surprising how often one hears in the news about a celebrity or wealthy businessperson who dies without leaving any estate plan, even so much as a simple will.
Texas residents are not required to plan their estates. However, if they do not, or if their estate planning documents are not valid, then Texas law will determine what happens to their property after they die.
As a community property state, Texas favors surviving spouses
Like a few other states, Texas uses a community property system. With respect to the intestate probate process, this means that surviving spouses receive favorable treatment.
After the death of a person who did not leave a will or trust, their surviving spouse will receive all of the couple’s community property.
There is an important exception to this rule. If the person who died has children through another relationship, then half the community property will go to those children.
The surviving spouse also receives one-third of the person’s separate personal property and an interest in the person’s land. They will receive more if the person who died has no descendants.
The rest of the separate property will go to the deceased person’s descendants or other family members as the case may be.
If a person dies unmarried and without a will, the property goes to family
Likewise, if someone is not married at the time of their death, Texas law provides that the property will go to family members, starting with one’s children.
Depending on a person’s family situation, very distant relatives could be in line to receive the estate.
Texas’s intestate laws are complicated and can create some unusual or uncomfortable legal outcomes. This is one reason why residents of Plano and the surrounding communities choose to create a quality estate plan early in their lives and update it often.
However, in those situations where someone has died without a will, a family still can navigate through the probate process. They would be well-advised to seek out professional legal assistance with doing so.