The best way to ensure that a person’s estate is distributed as he or she wishes is to make a will. However, in the event that a person dies intestate, without a will, Texas has in place a statutory formula that decides how property will be distributed and to whom. This formula is also known as intestate succession and is fully defined in Texas Estate Code §§ 201.001 to 201.003. Section 201.001(c) applies specifically to a person who dies without a spouse or children:
Sec. 201.001. ESTATE OF AN INTESTATE NOT LEAVING SPOUSE.
(a) If a person who dies intestate does not leave a spouse, the estate to which the person had title descends and passes in parcenary to the person's kindred in the order provided by this section.
(b) The person's estate descends and passes to the person's children and the children's descendants.
(c) If no child or child's descendant survives the person, the person's estate descends and passes in equal portions to the person's father and mother.
(d) If only the person's father or mother survives the person, the person's estate shall:
(1) be divided into two equal portions, with:
(A) one portion passing to the surviving parent; and
(B) one portion passing to the person's siblings and the siblings' descendants; or
(2) be inherited entirely by the surviving parent if there is no sibling of the person or siblings' descendants.
According to the above statute, if a person dies intestate without a spouse or children, then that person’s estate goes to siblings and/or parents. If both parents are living, then their child’s estate is divided equally between the two parents. If however only one parent is living at the time of the intestate person’s death, then half of the estate goes to the living parent, and half goes to siblings and the siblings’ descendants.
While Texas has a specific formula when a person dies intestate, a person’s preferences and wishes are not considered in that formula. A lawyer trained in estate planning will help create a will that reflects personal preferences, clarifying how exactly the estate’s assets should be distributed, to whom, and by whom. Easing distribution of an estate is a thoughtful act for family already grappling with the loss of a family member. If a loved one dies without a will, an estate may still require probate, known as an intestate administration. It is a wise to consult an experienced probate attorney, familiar with both testate and intestate administrations, in the event of the death of a friend or family member.
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