Multigenerational familyThis is the next post in our series discussing what happens when a Texas resident dies without a will. Our last article looked at the intestate probate process in Dallas and elsewhere in Texas. It is important to understand what to expect from the process before beginning it. In this article we will look at how heirs are determined when a Texas resident dies intestate.

The heirs in intestate Texas estates are defined by state statutes

If one dies without a will in Texas, their assets go to their “closest relatives” as defined by our state’s intestate succession laws. Whether the deceased wished for a particular party to be an heir is not relevant. Other factors that do not matter are whether the deceased and the potential heir enjoyed a quality relationship, whether the potential heir will act responsibly with the assets, or whether the deceased “liked someone else better.” Texas has determined a rank order of how assets will be divided, and the courts must follow that rank order.

The law’s method for dividing the assets of an intestate estate takes a step-by-step approach. In other words, if you fit situation “A,” then you take the first step and stop, then the law governs how your property is divided. If situation “A” does not fit, then you take the next step to situation “B.” The court will simply go down the list of situations and apply the one you fall into. For example, if one has a spouse but no children then then the spouse will automatically inherit everything. If there is a spouse, and children of both the deceased and the spouse, then the spouse inherits the following:

  • all community property
  • ⅓ of separate personal property
  • the right to use ⅓ of separately owned real estate for life

The children of such a marriage will inherit everything else. How property is divided, however, will change if there are additional children who are not of the marriage. There are many other situations that will potentially apply, depending on who the potential heirs are.

Our Dallas probate lawyers assist with disputing whether one should be an heir to an intestate estate

The laws mentioned in this post may sound straightforward in regards to determining heirs. The truth of the matter, however, is that there are often disputes over whether one is entitled to inherit from an intestate estate. For example, children born outside of a marriage may or may not be eligible to inherit depending on the circumstances. Step-children may have claims even if not formally adopted. This involve a legal claim of adoption by estoppel. Also, there may be disagreements over whether an individual can inherit as a common law spouse. Hiring an attorney can assist in resolving such disputes more quickly and protect your rights.

Our Dallas, Texas probate lawyers handle a number of heirship disputes throughout the state. If you find yourself in a disagreement over whether one should inherit, contact our attorneys immediately. In addition to Dallas, our lawyers serve Plano, Denton, Fort Worth, Garland, Irving, Frisco, McKinney, University Park, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Nacogdoches, and Lufkin, Texas. Contact us today.