Intestate succession is the set of laws that explain what happens to a person’s estate when they die without a will or other testamentary plan. In Texas, as in other jurisdictions around the country, intestate succession is based on familial relationships and surviving relatives. This post will generally explore intestate succession in the Lone Star State. Readers are reminded that no part of this post should be used as specific legal guidance.
Distributing an estate without instruction
As readers of this estate planning blog know, an estate plan provides instructions on how a person wants their assets distributed when they die. Important estate planning devices can include but are not limited to wills, trusts, and powers of attorney. A will is a device that a person can use to describe to whom they want their possessions to go.
When no instructions exist, the laws of intestacy take control. The first inquiry a court will make into the distribution of a decedent’s estate in intestate succession is if they have a spouse. Spouses take property from an estate first, with subsequent divisions occurring if the decedent had a spouse and kids at the time of their death.
If a person dies without kids or a spouse, their estate may pass to their parents, siblings, and family members beyond. The goal of intestate succession is to distribute assets to closely related relatives, but depending on who survives the decedent, that can look very different from case to case.
How to avoid intestate distribution of assets
Intestate succession only is used when an individual dies without a will or estate plan. It is a set of rules for when a decedent does not leave their own instructions for what they wish to happen. To avoid having one’s estate distributed according to Texas’s intestate succession laws, they can create an estate plan. Attorneys who practice this area of law can guide their clients through the important legal steps of drafting and executing valid testamentary documents.