Will The State Get My Property If I Die Without A Will?

Everyone needs a Will.

A Will allows you to dictate how your property will be distributed after you die. If you don’t have a Will, you lose control over that decision.

Texas has statutes that dictate how property will be distributed when a Texan dies without a Will. These intestacy statutes are rigid and inflexible. They are the state’s best guess of how someone would want their assets distributed, but don’t take into account an individual’s unique circumstances.

How property is distributed according to the intestacy statutes depend on several factors:

  • whether the deceased person is survived by children;
  • whether the deceased person is single or married; and
  • if the deceased person is married, whether the property is classified as separate or community, whether the property is personal or real,  and whether the deceased person’s children are also the children of the surviving spouse.

For example, the intestacy statutes provide that if you are single, don’t have any children, and you die without a Will, your property will pass equally to your parents, if both are living. If only one parent is alive and you don’t have any brothers and sisters, then your entire estate will pass to the surviving parent; however, if you do have siblings, then half of your property will pass to your surviving parent, and the other half would be split among your siblings. If you have no surviving parents, all your property would be split among your siblings.

While that may be how most single people would want their property distributed, there are exceptions. For example, the deceased person may have been estranged from a parent.  I wrote an article several years ago discussing a real-life example of a deadbeat dad inheriting half of his deceased son’s million  dollar estate, even though he had not seen his son for more than 30 years.

Property will pass to state only in very rare circumstances. That’s because in Texas, there is no limit on the degree of relationship needed to qualify as an heir.

The only time a deceased person’s property will escheat to the State of Texas is if he or she dies without a Will and has no living heirs. Heirs could include very distant relatives, perhaps even people the deceased person never knew (the so-called “laughing heirs”).

Comments

  1. What if I am married but I received the property as a gift from my parents seven years before I was married. The property was not completely paid and I paid the monthly fees. After I got married I continued to pay the monthly payments for a year. What happens to the property if I die without a will and my parents and siblings, and wife, are still alive.

    • Property received as a gift is by definition characterized as separate property. The fact that community funds are spent to improve or payoff separate property may give rise to a claim for reimbursement, but doesn’t change the characterization of the property.

      The following article describes how property is distributed when someone dies without a Will in Texas: The Complexities of Intestacy in Texas.

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