Courts across Texas determine heirs for a variety of reasons. The most important purpose, which is also the most common purpose, is to decide which family members inherit a deceased person’s property.
There is one big exception, however. If a deceased person left a valid last will and testament, then the deceased’s property is distributed according to the wishes they wrote in their will. However, the vast majority of people die “intestate,” which means without a leaving will. Further, the will left behind may be invalid for various reasons. In those cases, the family of the deceased person will inherit the estate of the deceased person.
In Texas, a deceased person will always have a defined set of heirs, who stand to inherit the deceased’s estate in fixed amounts. Some family will always inherit as heirs. If the deceased person was married, then their spouse will inherit at least some of their property. Similarly, if the deceased person had any children, then they almost always inherit some of the deceased person’s property. If the deceased person was unmarried and had no children, then Texas courts will name other family members heirs.
Even if a deceased person had no close family, they will always leave heirs. With the right circumstances, a twice-removed great-grandnephew could be an heir. In other words, if you are a distant relative of a deceased person, even if you never met them, you still may be entitled to an inheritance.
The Texas Estates Code provides a formula for the exact percent of property the intestate heirs will receive. The formula uses criteria like your biological relationship to the deceased person and how many other people are equally related. The formula does not, however, take into account your personal relationship with the deceased person. For example, a deceased mother may leave behind a daughter who was her best friend and confidant, along with an estranged son whom she had not spoken with for decades. In this scenario, the son and daughter would be entitled to equal inheritances, despite their different personal relationships with the deceased.
For more in-depth information, a Texas probate attorney can help you understand your heirship and inheritance rights. In our next post, we will discuss the rights of common law spouses, who can receive various benefits and completely change a deceased person’s heirship structure and payout.
If you have a close or distant relative who died without a valid will, you may have inheritance rights. We recommend speaking with a probate attorney who will explain whether you are an heir and what you may inherit. Our Dallas heir determination lawyers are experienced with simple and complex heirships in the DFW area and throughout Texas. In fact, we help Texas heirs claim their inheritance rights on a daily basis. If you think we can help you, please give us a call. Our offices also service Plano, Frisco, McKinney, Denton, Fort Worth, Garland, Irving, Austin, Houston, San Antonio, Nacogdoches, Lufkin, and Center.