The passing of parents is an emotionally challenging experience, and dealing with their affairs can be overwhelming, especially when they did not leave behind a will. In Texas, intestate succession laws govern the distribution of assets and property when a person dies without a will. By following certain steps, you can navigate the situation effectively.
Consult with an Attorney
Seek the guidance of a qualified estate attorney who is familiar with the state’s laws on intestate succession. An attorney can provide essential advice and help you understand the legal process involved in distributing the estate.
Stay Organized: Gather Important Documents
Start by collecting all relevant documents, such as birth certificates, marriage certificates, property deeds, bank account statements, investment records, insurance policies and other paperwork related to their assets and liabilities. Having these documents organized will make the process smoother.
Determining the Legal Heirs
When a person dies without a will, they are said to have died “intestate.” The laws will dictate who the legal heirs are. In most cases, the surviving spouse and children are considered primary heirs. If your parents were unmarried or their spouse predeceased them, the distribution becomes more complex and may include parents, siblings, and other relatives.
Appointing an Administrator
In Texas, an “administrator” is appointed by the court to oversee the estate’s distribution when there is no will. The court will typically appoint a close family member, such as a surviving spouse or an adult child, as the administrator. If there is a disagreement among potential administrators, the court will make the final decision.
Inventory and Valuation of Assets
The appointed administrator will need to create an inventory of the deceased’s assets, including real estate, bank accounts, investments, and personal property. This inventory should be as detailed as possible, and it may require the help of a professional appraiser to accurately value certain assets.
Paying Debts and Taxes
Before any distribution of assets, the estate’s debts and taxes must be settled. This includes outstanding bills, funeral expenses, and any other debts your parents may have had. The administrator should also file the final income tax return for the deceased and, if necessary, an estate tax return.
Distributing the Estate
Texas laws dictate how the estate will be distributed among the legal heirs. The distribution may vary depending on the surviving family members’ relationships, such as whether there is a surviving spouse, children, or other close relatives. The estate distribution process can be complex, especially when there are blended families, stepchildren, or distant relatives involved.
If there is a surviving spouse and children:
- The surviving spouse may receive a portion of the estate, and the rest will be divided among the children.
If there is no surviving spouse but there are children:
- The estate will be divided equally among the children.
If there is no surviving spouse or children:
- The estate may go to the deceased’s parents, siblings, or other relatives.
Avoiding Probate with a Small Estate Affidavit
In some cases, if the value of the estate is small, it may be possible to avoid probate altogether by using a Small Estate Affidavit. This process allows for a simplified distribution of assets without the need for court involvement. However, specific conditions must be met for this option to be applicable.
Dealing with the passing of parents is a challenging time, and not having a will can make it more complex. In Texas, intestate succession laws govern the distribution of assets when a person dies without a will. To ensure a smooth and legal distribution, it is crucial to understand the laws, determine the legal heirs, and follow the appropriate legal procedures. Seeking the guidance of an experienced estate attorney can be beneficial during this process, helping you navigate the complexities of Texas intestate succession laws.
Contact The Reecer Law Firm PLLC for Assistance
Dena Reecer, founder, and owner of the Reecer Law Firm PLLC, is one of a few Texas attorneys who are Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. If you have questions regarding estate planning, contact us for more information about how we can help you. The Reecer Law Firm is located at 3105 Unicorn Lake Blvd., Denton, Texas 76210.