Texas – Dying Without A Will

The State of Texas has your back.

It has a law specifically crafted to cover procrastinators and other good folk who have not found time to write a will.  Yes, that’s right – the State of Texas has written your will for you.  Your heirs are going to be so pleased.  They will bless your name for generations.  Or not.

Your heirs’ inheritance depends on the existence of other family members.  If you die without a spouse, then everything  goes to your children and their descendants.  If you have no children, then it goes to your mother and father in equal portions if both are still alive – if not, then the deceased parent’s portion goes to your brothers and sisters and their descendants.  If both parents are deceased, then the entire share goes to your siblings.  If you die without surviving spouse, children, parents and siblings, then we go up the ladder to your grandparents and back down to aunts, uncles and cousins.

Adopted children can inherit from parents, but parents can’t inherit from adopted children.  Some cases allow foster children to inherit as if they were adopted.

If  you die and you have a spouse, it’s a whole ‘nother game.  If you have children, then your personal estate is divided  1/3 to your spouse and 2/3 to your children.  Your land goes to your children, but your spouse is entitled to a life estate in 1/3 of the land.  If you don’t have any children, then all of your personal estate and ½ of the land goes to your spouse, but the other ½ goes to your other heirs (see the paragraph above).

Now let’s throw in community property laws.  After all, if you are married then everything you own is considered community property – so you really only own an undivided half of the marital estate.  Your share gets divided up – but your spouse keeps the other half.  Pretty soon you are dealing in 1/16th property interests among distant relatives.

The only worse thing than dying without a will is dying with a poorly written will.  I refer you to Bleak House by Charles Dickens,  a not-so-fictional piece of work about a probate case that outlasted a generation of lawyers.  The State of Texas could not have done better.