If you don’t have a lot of assets, you may feel you don’t need a will. But even your house, retirement accounts and bank accounts can add up to a fairly sizeable estate. And if you don’t create one, you may leave your family to go through a complicated process.
Texas law has specific rules for how estates with no will distribute to heirs. Depending on who is available to receive the inheritance, courts will give it to family members in a certain order. But before that happens, loved ones will need to go through the probate process.
Intestate succession goes through probate court
When someone passes away without a will, their estate still goes through a probate court. The court calculates the person’s assets and debts, deciding how much the property is worth and which creditors need reimbursement. The estate also pays for any court fees related to the process.
Who gets what if there is no will?
After calculating the value, the judge distributes the assets based on Texas intestacy laws. The following survivors receive an inheritance:
- If the spouse is still alive and the couple had children, he or she receives all their community property and a third of the deceased’s separate property. If there are no children, the spouse gets the whole estate.
- Children receive equal shares of the remaining two-thirds of the separate property if their other parent is still alive. If not, they split everything equally.
- If there is no spouse or children, the parents receive everything.
- If there is no spouse, children or parents, the estate goes to siblings of the deceased.
- If there are no direct relatives, the court will start searching for the closest nieces, nephews, grandparents, aunts, uncles or cousins. If they don’t find anyone, Texas claims the estate.
Estate planning documents help you smooth out the process
Creating a will can ensure that your assets go exactly where you want them to go. Some proper planning can also make sure your entire estate doesn’t go to creditors.
A will can also reduce some of the burdens of probate. If you have a clear, legally sound document, the court won’t need to take as long to administer your assets. If you die intestate, the process could take up to two years. And if someone tries to challenge your wishes, a solid last testament will be more difficult to overturn.
You may not feel like you need to plan for your estate’s succession. But if you don’t fill out the proper documents, your family could pay the price.