Dying Without a Will in Texas

Laws of Intestacy Succession in Texas

Historic South Grounds and Great Walk, Texas Capitol, Austin
Historic South Grounds and Great Walk, Texas Capitol, Austin. Credit: State Preservation Board, Caretakers of the Texas Capitol

When a Texas resident dies without having made a Last Will and Testament, the intestacy succession laws found in the Texas Probate Code will dictate who inherits the deceased person's probate estate. Below is a summary of the Texas intestacy succession laws in various situations.

Deceased Person is Survived by a Spouse, Descendants, Parents and/or Siblings

Here is what will happen under the Texas intestacy laws if the deceased person is survived by a spouse and/or descendants (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.), and/or parents, and/or siblings:

  • Survived by a spouse and children who are also children of the spouse - In this case, the surviving spouse will inherit all of the deceased spouse's community property plus one-third (1/3) of the deceased spouse's separate personal property and the right to use the real estate for life, and the deceased spouse's children will inherit the balance, per stirpes.
  • Survived by a spouse and children who are not the children of the surviving spouse - In this case, the surviving spouse will inherit one-third (1/3) of the deceased spouse' separate personal property and the right to use the real estate for life, and the deceased spouse's children inherit everything else, including the deceased spouse's one-half (1/2) interest in the community property, per stirpes.
  • Survived by a spouse and no descendants or parents - In this case, the surviving spouse will inherit the deceased spouse's entire probate estate.
  • Survived by a spouse and parent or parents and no descendants - In this case, the surviving spouse will inherit all of the deceased spouse's community property, all of the deceased spouse's separate personal property, and the right to use one-half (1/2) of the separate real estate for life, and the deceased spouse's parents will inherit the balance.
  • Survived by a spouse and sibling or siblings and no parents or descendants - In this case, the surviving spouse will inherit all of the deceased spouse's community property, all of the deceased spouse's separate personal property, and the right to use one-half (1/2) of the separate real estate for life, and the siblings will inherit the balance.
  • Survived by descendants and no spouse - In this case, the deceased person's descendants will inherit the entire probate estate, per stirpes.

Deceased Person is Not Survived by a Spouse, Descendants, Parents or Siblings

If the deceased person dies without a will and is not survived by a spouse, descendants, parents or siblings, then the deceased person's property will pass to nieces and nephews, if any, otherwise to grandparents, aunts or uncles, great uncles or aunts, cousins of any degree, or the children, parents, or siblings of a predeceased spouse. In the unlikely circumstance that the deceased person is not survived by any family members as described above, then the entire probate estate will escheat to the State of Texas.

What You Will Inherit from a Texas Intestate Estate

What will you inherit if your relative dies without leaving a Last Will and Testament and the relative was a resident of Texas or owned real estate located in Texas?

Even if you determine based on the information above that you are entitled to an intestate share of your relative's estate, you may very well not inherit anything.

Why? Because your relative may have left all non-probate property or the debts your relative owed at the time of death may exceed the value of the probate estate which will make the estate insolvent. If you are not sure of your legal rights as an intestate heir in Texas, then consult with a Texas probate attorney to be sure.

NOTE: State laws change frequently and the following information may not reflect recent changes in the laws. For current tax or legal advice, please consult with an accountant or an attorney since the information contained in this article is not tax or legal advice and is not a substitute for tax or legal advice.