Texas, like every other state in the United States, has laws concerning inheritances. Individuals can circumvent those laws by drafting a valid will, which describes to whom the individual’s property should be passed at his or her death. There are many factors that are taken into account to determine who should receive the property of the deceased. Texas inheritance laws between a husband and a wife are affected by whether the couple has children.
What Does it Mean to Die Intestate?
If an individual dies intestate, it means that the individual did not have a will or one that is valid under state laws. When an individual dies intestate, state law governs how property is passed. This process is called intestate succession. The laws governing intestate succession are different in each state.
Married Intestate Succession Without Descendants
Individuals who are married in Texas and who die intestate will have their property distributed under the provisions of the Texas Probate Code. If the deceased was married without children, then all property owned jointly with the spouse will become the property of the surviving spouse. Additionally, if there are no children, the surviving spouse will inherit all of the personal and real property owned in the deceased’s name alone.
Married Intestate with Descendants
The rules of distribution change slightly when the decedent was married with children. If the deceased has children with his surviving spouse and those are the only descendants, the surviving spouse will receive all of the jointly owned property. If the deceased has any children that are not children of the surviving spouse, then the surviving spouse will retain her half of the jointly owned property and the descendant will inherit the deceased’s half of the jointly owned property. For personal property, the surviving spouse will receive one-third of the deceased spouse’s property owned in his name and the remaining two-thirds will pass to the descendants. The surviving spouse will receive a life estate in one-third of the deceased’s real property and the descendants will receive the remaining two-thirds outright and the surviving spouse’s one-third after she passes away.
If you wish to designate your property to be passed in a different way than Texas law provides, you must draft a valid will. In order for a will to be valid in Texas, it must be written by an individual who is of sound mind and who intends to make a revocable decision regarding the distribution of his assets at his death. The will can be completely handwritten by the individual, but it must be signed by the individual and witnessed by at least two people who are over the age of 14.
Kay Lee began freelance writing for Answerbag and eHow in 2010. She is an attorney in Washington, DC, practicing since 2006. Lee specializes in employee benefits and executive compensation. She holds a Juris Doctor from the Columbus School of Law and a Master of Laws from Georgetown University Law Center.