What Happens if I Die Without a Will in Texas?
4 min read

What Happens if I Die Without a Will in Texas?

What are the consequences of dying without a Will in Texas? What does it mean to die intestate? This article explains what it means to die without a Will and how you can avoid trouble for your loved ones in the future! Keep reading to find out.

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According to surveys, over 50% of Americans say they do not have a Will. Many people delay making an estate plan because they don’t think they have enough assets for it to matter. They also assume that if they pass away without a Will in Texas, the state’s distribution laws will generally correspond to their wishes. Unfortunately, there are serious risks to dying without a Will in Texas. In this article, we’ll go through what it means to die without a Will in Texas and explain how to avoid making that mistake.

What Does it Mean to Die “Intestate” In Texas?

If you die without a Will, it means you die "intestate." The word intestate is a legal term. In essence, it means your estate will be distributed according to Texas law rather than by your wishes. So, let's look at how Texas courts decide what happens to your estate after you die. 

If a Texas resident passes away without having created a Will, the person’s estate has to go through the state's intestacy probate procedure. The Texas Probate Code governs everything about this process, specifically Title 2, Subtitle E, Chapter 201. During the probate process, the court appoints an executor or personal representative to handle your affairs. Any assets owned at the time of your death, along with any outstanding debts or obligations, become part of the probate proceedings. The debts are subtracted from the overall value of the assets, and the remaining balance is distributed according to legal guidelines. The expenses associated with court fees during a probate case can vary from a few hundred dollars to over a thousand dollars, depending on the circumstances. The entire process can take up to two years to conclude.

Independent Administration of Texas Estates

In contrast, Texas has a streamlined probate process when a person has a Will and elects for an "independent administration" of estates. Under this procedure, the executor can act on behalf of the estate with little court supervision. The executor won’t have to post a bond and won’t need permission from the court to do basic tasks like paying debts, distributing assets, and selling estate property. If you make a Texas Will using FastWill, you can elect to use this procedure, which will wrap up your estate faster and be less expensive for your heirs.

What Assets Are Distributed If You Pass Away Without a Will in Texas?

If you die without a valid Will in Texas, the probate court will distribute most of your possessions. These assets include: 

  • Real estate that you own in your name.

  • Vehicles, including boats, recreational vehicles, and planes.

  • Bank accounts.

  • Personal property, such as family heirlooms, furniture, and memorabilia. 

Texas Assets Not Impacted by Intestate Succession

Not all assets are transferred through the probate court. Suppose you own any of the following assets in Texas. In that case, they will be transferred to beneficiaries that you identified when you filled out the documentation: 

  • Assets that have been transferred to a living trust.

  • Payable-on-death checking accounts.

  • Property and assets that are jointly owned with someone else as joint tenants with rights of survivorship or tenants by the entirety. 

  • Life insurance proceeds are designated to a named beneficiary.

  • Funds within IRAs, 401(k)s, or other retirement accounts with designated beneficiaries.

These assets will pass to the named beneficiary or surviving co-owner, regardless of whether you have a Will.

The Spouse’s Share When You Die Intestate in Texas

If you are legally married, and you die without a Will in Texas, the property distribution depends on how you owned your property as a couple.  Was it separate property or community property? Community property is property acquired during your marriage, whereas separate property is property that you acquired before you were married. The major exception to this rule is that gifts and inheritances that one spouse received during the marriage remain separate property, regardless of the fact that they were acquired during the marriage. 

So, your spouse will inherit half of the community property plus one-third of your separate property.  The rest of the separate property will be distributed to your descendants, starting with your children. Your spouse will also have the right to use your real estate (such as your marital home) for life.  

Some people pass away without a spouse or close relatives. If this is your situation, the court will track down people who may be distantly related to you. If no family members can be located, the state of Texas will inherit your estate.

How to Make a Legal Will in Texas

You can avoid these complications by making an estate plan with a Will. You don't need to hire an attorney and wait months for a final document. FastWill can help you make a Texas Will in just minutes. Our process relies on Texas attorneys and AI to help you make a Will that is perfect for your specific situation. Writing a will is still the best strategy to control your destiny. Get started today.

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