The Complexities of Intestacy in Blended Families

Can Stepchildren Force a Surviving Spouse to Sell Homestead Property?

by Rania Combs

The death of a spouse can be complicated in blended families, especially if the deceased spouse’s children are not bonded with their stepparent.

Problems often arise in cases of intestacy, when Texas statutes dictate how property will be divided at death.

  1. In blended families, the surviving spouse is only be entitled to keep his or her own one-half interest in the community estate. The deceased spouse’s share of the community estate will pass to his or her children in equal shares.
  2. If the deceased spouse died leaving separate real property, the surviving spouse is entitled to only a life estate in one-third of that property. The remainder is inherited outright by the deceased spouse’s children in equal shares.

Once their parent has died, children of the deceased spouse may want to take their share of their inheritance and cut all ties with their stepparent. However, in cases of homestead property, even property classified as the deceased spouse’s separate property, cutting all ties can be difficult.

Certain constitutional protections are available for surviving spouses in Texas. A surviving spouse is entitled to a life estate in the homestead and cannot be forced to sell the property as long as he or she occupies and uses it.

The property’s heirs may be able to take possession of the property if they can show that the surviving spouse abandoned it. However, abandonment is hard to prove, and there is authority stating that the surviving spouse can retain a life estate even if he or she moves out and rents out the property to someone else.

Nevertheless, if the surviving spouse sells the property during his or her lifetime or elects to no longer use or occupy the property as his or her homestead, then the proceeds of the sale can be divided among the respective owners of the property.

Otherwise, stepchildren will simply have to wait until the surviving spouse has died to take control of their share of the property.

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  1. E

    March 11, 2016 at 11:19pm

    Stepdad taking care of me since I was 8 years old, died without will but had a surving wife do I have rights as a stepchild?

    1. Rania Combs

      March 23, 2016 at 10:20am

      By making a Will, stepparents can ensure that their stepchildren inherit from their estates. But unless the stepparent has legally adopted the stepchild, the lack of a biological relationship will preclude a stepchild from inheriting by virtue of the Texas intestacy statutes.

  2. Melinda Estrada

    April 8, 2019 at 3:15pm

    Iam a widow in the state of Texas my spouse died without a will. He owned our house before our marriage, but it still had a mortgage. Before he passed we payed off the mortgage. I know it’s my homestead but can I force his children to buy me out?

    1. Rania Combs

      April 24, 2019 at 4:52pm


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