Dying without a will is known as dying intestate. Intestacy requires the state to distribute the assets of the estate in accordance with that state’s law. 

Who inherits will depend on who survives the decedent and state law. The state will use the heirship process to determine who the surviving heirs are, and in what order they stand to inherit. Potential heirship could be as follows:

  1. The surviving spouse stands to inherit all of the marital property in the estate, plus ⅓ of the spouse’s separate property and the right to use the real estate for life. If the deceased spouse has no descendants or parents, the surviving spouse inherits everything.
  2. The deceased spouse’s children inherit the balance of the estate that’s left over after the spouse inherits. Remember that Texas law gives inheritance rights to children or adopted children but not to stepchildren.
  3. If there is not a spouse or children, inheritance rights pass first to parents, then to siblings, then to nieces/nephews, and then to grandparents, aunts/uncles, great-aunts/uncles, cousins of any degree, or the children, parents, or siblings of a predeceased spouse. 
  4. If no next-of-kin stands to inherit, then the entire estate goes to the State of Texas. 

Estates plagued by intestacy always pass through the probate process. The courts appoint an administrator of the estate, verify the parties who are eligible to inherit, and verify creditors who might have a claim on the estate. The probate process itself may be very expensive, and the entire process can take 1-2 years.  However, the cost of the probate process may be deducted from the estate so that the person applying is not personally liable for all of the costs.

Some assets don’t pass through a will. A life insurance payment, for example, gets paid out by the insurance company to the named beneficiary regardless of who is named in the will and regardless of whether or not a will exists. 

If your loved one died without a will, it’s generally wise to work with a probate lawyer to simplify the process. There are times when the probate process may be shortened or smoothed. This is part of the services that we offer. 

In addition, you may need help establishing that you are a legal heir with full inheritance rights. We can help you navigate heirship proceedings. 

If you’ve been named an administrator, you might also need help meeting the duties and responsibilities of your office. 

Consider contacting our attorneys to get help with your probate needs today.