What if I die without a will or a trust?
What if I die without a will or a trust? When you die without a will or a trust, you are essentially relinquishing one of your freedoms in life—the freedom to decide what will happen to your assets when you die. If you fail to take advantage of that freedom, your assets will be distributed according to a legal formula that will have no bearing on your wishes or your circumstances. Below is a snapshot of how the state of Texas will distribute your assets in the event you die without a will or trust:
- If you are single, have no children, and die without a will or trust in Texas, your estate will pass in equal shares to your parents if they are living. If only one parent is alive, and you have no brothers or sisters, your entire estate will go to your surviving parent.
- If you have siblings and nieces or nephews, your surviving parent will receive half of your estate, and your siblings, nieces, and nephews will divide the remaining half of your estate.
- If you have no surviving parents, all of your estate will go to your siblings and/or your nieces, and nephews.
- If you have no surviving parents, siblings, nieces, or nephews, your estate will be divided in half; one half will pass to relatives on your mother’s side, while the other half will pass to relatives on your father’s side. (If there are no surviving relatives on one side or the other, then the entire estate would go to the surviving side).
- If you die with absolutely no surviving heir, your estate will go to the State of Texas.
- If you are unmarried but have children, then all your property will pass to your descendants. If all your descendants are of the same degree of relationship (as an example, all are your children, or all are your grandchildren), then your assets will be divided equally among them. If, however, your descendants are of differing degrees of relationship (a mixture of children and grandchildren), then the grandchildren are only entitled to share what their parents would have received.
- If you are married, the assumption is that your surviving spouse will inherit all of your estate, however, this may or may not be the case. Your spouse will inherit all of your community property if all your children are also the children of your surviving spouse.
- If all of your children are not the children of your surviving spouse, then one-half of your community property will go to your spouse and the other half to your children.
- If you have separate property, your surviving spouse will receive one-third of that property and a life estate—the right to use the property until his or her death—in one-third of your real property. The rest of your separate property will be inherited outright by your children.
- If you are married but have no children or descendants, your surviving spouse is entitled to all your separate property unless you have surviving parents and siblings. In this case, your surviving spouse will receive one-half of your separate property, and your surviving parents and/or siblings will receive the other half.
If you would not be happy with the above distribution of your assets, then it is definitely time to think about a will or trust!