What happens when your loved one didn’t leave a will?

Estate planning is crucial to ensure the safety and security of your family’s future. But sometimes, loved ones pass away without a will. While this can make things more difficult, don’t worry — it doesn’t mean that their assets are out of your hands.


Determining asset property

If your loved one was married, you will need to determine which of their assets are community property and which are separate property. Community property includes any assets shared or jointly owned by their spouse. On the other hand, separate property is any belongings or property owned solely by your loved one. Family members will then receive assets based on intestacy succession laws.

Texas intestate succession

Intestate succession lists which family members have the right to inherit and in what order. Family members commonly receive inheritances in descending order. So, spouses, parents, siblings and descendants such as children and grandchildren are among the first to receive assets.

Intestacy succession laws vary by state. Depending on which family members survived your loved one, here are just a few examples of how the state of Texas might distribute the assets:

  • Spouse and children, no parents or siblings — The surviving spouse inherits all community property and one-third of the separate property. Children inherit the remaining two-thirds.
  • Spouse and siblings, no children or parents — The spouse inherits all community and separate property and half of the remaining real estate. Siblings inherit whatever remains.
  • Spouse and parents, no children or siblings — The spouse inherits all community and separate property and half of the remaining real estate. Parents inherit whatever remains.
  • Parent and siblings, no children or spouse — Parents inherit half of the property. Siblings inherit the other half.
  • Descendants only — Children, grandchildren and even great-grandchildren will receive all assets, usually split evenly among them.

If there are no close living relatives, the state will turn to nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles or cousins of varying degrees to ensure that the estate stays within the family.

Seek assistance during this difficult time

Because all families are unique, intestate succession will look different from family to family. If your loved one passes without a will, it’s important to know how you and your family will inherit your loved one’s estate. An estate planning attorney can help you understand what to except from the process so that you can prepare to receive your loved one’s assets after they pass.