Dying Without a Will in Texas: What Happens? Part I

Part 1
By Jason Brower

Question: “Is it true that the state gets everything if I die without a Will?”

Concerned clients routinely ask this question expressing their concern in keeping the State from taking their hard-earned estate upon their deaths. Fortunately, the State does not take the property of someone dying without a Will. Instead, Texas law dictates how the assets of someone dying without a Will are divided upon their death.

If you die without a Will, you are said to have died “intestate.” When someone dies intestate, Texas law lays out how the estate will be distributed in the Texas Probate Code. Under those provisions, the law draws a distinction between “separate” property and “community” property. The Probate Code defines separate property as any property owned by the deceased prior to married and any property given to the deceased during their marriage or acquired by them as an inheritance from someone else. On the other hand, the Probate Code defines community property as all property acquired or accumulated during the marriage, other than property acquired by gift or inheritance, and Texas law requires different divisions of separate property than community property. These divisions can be somewhat complicated, but understanding their divisions makes intestate estates much easier.

In the next several days we will analyze these scenarios and explain the probate code’s division of property for each scenario.