Do Widows have Guaranteed Rights Over an Estate in Texas?
Our Lake Jackson estate planning attorney breaks down the rights widows have after their spouse passes away.
It is a common misconception that when a person is married and their spouse dies, they automatically have the right to their spouse’s entire estate. This is not always true. The portion of the estate a person will receive will largely depend on whether their spouse had drafted a will prior to their death and if not, whether there are children from a previous marriage or relationship.
Spousal Inheritance When a Will is in Place
Wills are intended to outline the last wishes of a person after they pass away. As such, if someone had drafted a will prior to their death, that document would outline the amount to which their spouse was entitled. However, Texas law does give widows the right to one half of the community property in the estate. Community property includes the assets the couple acquired together during their marriage. Generally speaking, each spouse has a right to half of the community property and so, this is automatically distributed to a widow after their spouse’s death. Therefore, the deceased individual only has the right to control their half of the community property estate.
It is just as important to note that after a couple gets a divorce, the courts will automatically invalidate any inheritance left to them in a will. As such, anyone that wants to leave property to their former spouse must create a new will that specifically outlines these wishes.
Spousal Inheritance When a Will is Not in Place
When someone dies and does not have a will, the intestate succession laws of Texas apply, and they determine which individuals will inherit the estate. The separate property of the individual includes any assets and liabilities they acquired prior to the marriage, or other property not considered community property. For example, inheritances are typically considered separate property. If the person inherited property before their death but during their marriage, it is still not considered community property.
- Under the intestate succession laws, separate property may be distributed one-half to a surviving spouse if there are no children, with the remaining one-half going to the siblings or parents of the decedent. When there are surviving children, the surviving spouse may receive one-third with the remaining two-thirds going to the children.
Community property under the intestate succession laws be distributed all to the surviving spouse if there are no children or if all children are of the marriage. If the decedent dies with children from a previous marriage, the children receive the decedents one-half of the community property estate and the spouse retains their one-half.
Determining who inherits from a decedent who died without a Will depends on several factors, including whether there are children from a previous marriage or relationship, whether the asset is real property or personal property and whether there is a potential common law marriage. While this article generally lays out a couple of scenarios of what happens when one dies without a Will, an experienced probate lawyer should be sought out.
Our Estate Planning Lawyers in Lake Jackson Can Advise on Your Case
The death of a spouse is always devastating, and the legal issues that follow only make this hard time even more difficult. At Cordoba Law Firm, our Brazoria County estate planning lawyers in Lake Jackson can answer your questions and advise on your case so you receive what is legally yours. Call us today at (979) 297-2854 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with one of our skilled attorneys.