When Family Members Die Without A Will

by Ricardo Barrera

Under Texas law, when someone passes away without a will, that is referred to as their having died “intestate”.  (The word “intestate” simply means, “without a will.”) 

Texas has laws in place as to how the property is distributed when a family member dies without a will.  These laws make provision for the widow or widower, children of the current and former marriages, and generally makes provision for the bloodline or adopted heirs as to their rightful portions.

One of the first things to do is, of course, a thorough search for a will. Sometimes it’s in a safety deposit box, filing cabinet, or it may even be pre-recorded with the county clerk. 

Should a will not be found, it’s a good idea to determine who should be the “Applicant” to the court in moving the process along to inventory and appraise the estate, deal with creditors and claims, pay taxes and distribute according to the court’s determination of heirship. 

One of the biggest contingencies in this matter, is the value of the estate.  There are laws to address the case of estates less than $75,000, with other qualifications.

What is probate and where does that fit in?

Probate is defined as the court-supervised administration of an estate. It is generally required for those whose estate has a fair market value of more than $100,000. Not included in the estate valued for probate is property that is being transferred to a spouse, trusts, or life insurance or retirement accounts for which there are beneficiaries, defined as those under contractual benefits. Probates are not dependent on whether or not a person created a will.

What property is subject to probate proceedings?

The property that is subject to probate proceedings depends on how it is titled, the nature and value of the property and whether or not there is a surviving spouse. Only property for which a person held the title at the time of their death can be subjected to probate. Some people choose to create a living trust in order to put their property into. They then pass the title of their property onto the trust, which is not subject to probate. A good lawyer familiar with probate law, can advise you on the best way to plan your estate to avoid costly and time consuming probate proceedings.

Your home and material possessions can be at stake during the probate process. Read more about the probate process.  

For more information, call The Barrera Law Firm at (956) 428-2822 for a free consultation or fill in our online request form.



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