What Happens If Someone Dies Without A Will?

older couple holding hands

People choose not to establish wills for many different reasons. Maybe they don’t believe it’s necessary, don’t want to think about their future passing, or simply don’t know why they’re important. In fact, it is estimated that about of Americans don’t have a will.

What is a Will?

A will is a formal legal document that explicitly states the deceased’s wishes for after they die.
A will:

  • Explains how the deceased wants their assets divided among their beneficiaries
  • Names a guardian or guardians for any minor children
  • Names an executor of the will

So what exactly happens when someone dies without a will?

Texas Intestacy Laws

When someone dies without a will, assets will be divided and passed down based on intestate succession laws.
Many people would assume that 100% of the deceased’s property would automatically go to the surviving spouse. However, this is not always the case.

Community vs. Separate Property

How the assets are distributed depends on what is community or separate property.
Community property refers to all assets purchased together during the marriage. For example, the home the married couple purchased and lived in for years.
Separate property is whatever one spouse had purchased or inherited before entering the marriage.

Division of Community Property

If you pass away with a surviving spouse and surviving children, your spouse will inherit all of the community property from your marriage.

However, if your surviving children are not the children of your spouse, then the property will be split.

Division of Separate Property

If you leave separate property, it will be divided between your surviving spouse and children.
Your spouse will receive ⅓ of your separate property, and the right to keep your real estate. Your children will inherit what is left.

Other Circumstances

If you don’t have a surviving spouse and children at the time of your passing, Texas intestacy laws determine a different method of dividing your assets.

If you have a surviving spouse but no children, your spouse will inherit everything.
If you have children but no spouse, your children will inherit everything.

In rare cases, if you have no surviving family members, the state of Texas will inherit your estate.

The Benefit Of Having A Will In Place

A will gives you the ability to make personal decisions for how you want to divide your estate among your family members or friends. For example, no one outside of your family will inherit anything if you do not have a will.

You also may want to make different decisions about who in your family inherits what property, or how much. A will allows you to make those decisions.

Dallas Estate Planning Services

You may be unsure of where to start when it comes to drafting a will. At DebnamRust, P.C., we can help you through the process. Contact us today to set up a consultation with our compassionate attorneys.