If you die without a will in Texas, the Texas Estates Code has strict rules that dictate where your assets go. For the vast majority of people out there I would say that this strict assignment of their assets is not what they would have wanted. And for some people, due to their specific life circumstances, this assignment of their assets would be an absolute horror.
There are also other reasons why it is not a good thing to die without a will. For instance, it takes longer to get your estate taken care of in probate, sometimes many months or even years longer. Because of this it will cost your estate more money, sometimes a whole lot more money. And if young children are beneficiaries, they would get access to their inheritance when they turn 18, and it’s usually not a good idea to give control of larger sums of assets when someone is still so young. But for now let’s just stick to the rules of where your assets go if you die without a will.
If you are single and do not have any children:
If both of your parents are still living, then your assets pass equally to both of your parents. If only one parent is still living and you don’t have any siblings, then all of your assets will pass to your surviving parent.
If only one parent is still living and you have siblings, then ½ goes to the surviving parent, and the other ½ gets divided between your siblings and/or any children of siblings who did not survive you.
If neither of your parents survives you, then all of your assets would be divided between your siblings and/or any children of siblings who did not survive you.
If you don’t have any surviving parents, siblings or descendants of siblings, then ½ of your estate goes to relatives on your mother’s side of the family, and the other ½ goes to relatives of on your father’s side of the family.
If there are no surviving family members at all, then all of your assets go to the State of Texas.
If you are single with children:
If you are single with children, then all of your estate goes to your children. If one of your children has not survived you, then their share would be divided among their own children if they have any.
If you die while married:
If you die while married in Texas, it gets even more complicated, because Texas is a community property state. Any property acquired during the marriage is presumed to be community property. Separate property of each spouse is any property owned before marriage and any property acquired as a gift or through inheritance as long as the property doesn’t get commingled with community property. (See “What Is Community Property And Separate Property In Texas“)
Your spouse will get all of your share of the community property if all of your children are also the children of your spouse. However, if there are children from outside the marriage, then your share of community property goes to your children, and your spouse only gets to keep his/her share of the community property. If you don’t have any children, then your spouse gets all of your community property.
Separate property gets yet more complicated. If you have children, then your spouse gets 1/3 of your separate personal property and the rest gets divided equally between your children. For your separate real property your spouse gets a life estate in 1/3 of this property, and the rest is given to your children. A life estate gives the person the right to use that property until they die, so after your spouse dies that interest would go to your children.
If you don’t have any children or any other descendants, then your spouse would get all of your separate property. However, if you have any surviving parents or siblings, then your spouse would only get ½ of your separate property, and the rest would go to your parent(s) and sibling(s) by other specific rules.
The bottom line is that if you want to make sure that your assets go where you actually want them to go, then you really should have a will in place. This would also save your estate time and money, potentially a lot of both, when you do pass. Lastly, since it’s not hard or expensive to get a will, there’s really no good reason not to have one.