Losing a family member is tragic in its own right. Most people have a hard time coping with their grief. It may take them months to come to terms with their new daily routine and the changes in their family dynamics. Unfortunately, people don’t have the option of slowly recuperating after a family tragedy. They need to immediately begin addressing practical issues, such as securing the assets from someone’s estate and resolving their financial obligations.
One of the most common complications that could arise during probate proceedings is the discovery that someone died without a will or estate plan. Their family members, who may not even live in Texas, may then have to figure out what steps to take next. What happens to an estate if someone dies without a will?
Texas law controls the probate process
Individuals who create their own estate plans can designate anyone that matters to them and even nonprofit organizations as the beneficiaries of their estates. People can leave property for friends and coworkers or a charitable cause that is close to their heart, like songbird conservancy.
Without an estate plan, the decedent forgoes having legal authority over the distribution of their property. The law in Texas does account for this exact scenario. There are intestate succession laws that describe what should happen with someone’s property if they die without a will.
The closest family members of the decedent have the strongest protections under current Texas statutes. Someone’s parents, spouse and children may be the only parties to inherit from their estate if they die without an estate plan. If an individual does not have surviving parents, a spouse or children, then their siblings may have the right of inheritance.
Even distant relatives may inherit from someone’s estate when there are no closer family members to lay claim to their property. Texas does attempt to locate surviving family members if necessary to distribute someone’s assets after their death. However, in the rare scenario where the state cannot locate any surviving family members, the assets belonging to someone who dies intestate would pass to the state itself.
Those who have just lost a loved one may need to go through their assets and personal records carefully looking for either a will or proof of a relationship with an attorney. The discovery of a business card for a lawyer could be the first step toward tracking down someone’s testamentary documents. Either way, knowing what to expect during the Texas probate process may help people better advocate for themselves and their family members during a difficult time.