The Complexities of Intestacy in Texas
Many people may assume that if they are married and die without a Will in Texas, their surviving spouse will inherit their entire estate.
You might be surprised to learn that this is not always the case. The way property is characterized is important in determining who inherits the property when its owner dies.
In Texas, property owned by a married person is classified as either community property or separate property.
Community Property in Texas
It is presumed that all property acquired during marriage is community property. Under Texas laws if a married person dies without a valid will, and is survived by a spouse and children, then:
- The surviving spouse will inherit all community property if all the decedent’s children are also the children of the surviving spouse;
- Otherwise, all the decedent’s one-half interest in the community estate of the marriage passes to his or her children, with the surviving spouse keeping only his or her one-half interest.
Separate Property in Texas
Property is characterized as separate property if it is: (1) acquired before marriage, (2) obtained by gift under a will or through inheritance, or (3) obtained with directly traceable separate property funds.
Under Texas laws, if a married person dies without a valid will, and is survived by a spouse and children:
- The surviving spouse is entitled to one third of the deceased spouse’s separate personal property,
- And the surviving spouse receives only a life estate (the right to use the property until his or her death) in one-third of the deceased spouse’s separate real property. The rest would be inherited outright by the children of the deceased spouse.
In cases where the deceased spouse has no children or other descendants, the surviving spouse would be entitled to all the separate personal property.
But if the deceased spouse has surviving parents and siblings, the surviving spouse would only be entitled to one-half of the separate real property with the other half passing to the parents, siblings or descendants of siblings in a manner set forth by the statutes.
What types of problems could you foresee occurring in cases of blended families or spouses who have strained relationships with in-laws? Please leave your comments below and stay tuned. . .