Sometimes people die without having made a Will. A Will is a legal document, usually drafted by a Texas attorney, that states who will get the person’s property when he dies. If the person did not plan and prepare a Will, the person dies “intestate” and the Texas laws of intestacy determine who gets the deceased’s property. The Texas intestacy laws can get complicated, and are different for people who die married or single. In a previous article we discussed the Texas laws regarding intestacy for a married person. In this article we will discuss the intestacy scenarios for a single person. To avoid intestacy, it is wise to contact a probate attorney such as Austin probate lawyer Farren Sheehan for help drafting a Will.
If the person died in Texas without a Will, his property passes to his heirs under Texas law. This is known as intestate succession. Without a Will, the estate passes to the descendants according to Texas law even if the decedent said while he was alive that he preferred that his property be left in a different way.
How the property passes and to whom under Texas intestate laws is very complicated, often more so for single individuals. Frequently families in Austin, Pflugerville, Cedar Hill, and Round Rock will need an Austin probate attorney to help sort this out.
The Texas Estates Code specifies how an estate of a single person is distributed when there is no Will. When a single person without children dies intestate and is survived by both parents, the whole estate will pass equally to the parents. If only one parent is alive when the single individual dies, and he did not have any brothers or sisters, then the entire estate will pass to his surviving parent.
If the deceased is survived by one parent and did have siblings, or descendants of siblings (i.e., nieces or nephews), the surviving parent will receive one-half of the estate, and the remaining one-half will be divided among the siblings and descendants. If there were no surviving parents, but the decedent did have surviving siblings or descendants, the whole estate would pass equally to the siblings and descendants.
In a situation where the deceased person had no surviving children, descendants, parents, siblings, or descendants of siblings, then the estate is divided into two halves. One-half passes to relatives on his mother’s side of the family, and the other one half passes to relatives on his father’s side. If one side of the family has completely died out, the whole estate passes to the relatives on the surviving side of the family. Finally, it is possible when an unmarried person dies without any surviving heir, his estate passes to the State of Texas.
Intestacy for single individuals leaving children or descendants is a little easier. When a single person with children or descendants dies intestate, all of the property passes to the children or descendants. If the descendants are of the same degree of relationship, (for example, all are children or all are grandchildren), then the assets are divided equally among them.
However, if the descendants are of different degrees of relationship, the younger generation is entitled only to the share the older generation in their line would have received had he or she survived. For example, if one of the children predeceased the single person, leaving children or grandchildren of her own, those descendants would share what the child was entitled to had she survived.
As you can see, probate without a Will can be complicated and potentially costly depending on the size and complexity of the estate. It is advisable to see an attorney to help draft a Will to avoid intestacy problems and to make it easier for family members to quickly distribute the estate to those intended by the deceased to have the property. Having an attorney in Travis County can help facilitate this somewhat complicated process. If you have questions, please contact Austin probate attorney Farren Sheehan for a consultation.