What Happens If My Loved One Dies Without a Will?

If someone dies without leaving a will, it is known as intestate death. In the state of Texas, assets are distributed in several ways in cases of intestate death. If the decedent had debt, those will also be handled in a specific way. Here are two questions to ask about intestate death laws.

How is your estate distributed if there is no will?

  • If you are single with no children, the Texas Probate Code will distribute your assets in the following order: to your parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and relatives on your mother’s and father’s sides of the family. In some cases, the estate of one who dies with no surviving heirs will pass to the State of Texas.
  • If you are unmarried but have children, your assets will be distributed to your descendants if they are in the same degree of relationship (if they are all your children). If they are of different degrees of relationship, such as if your child dies and leaves a child of their own (your grandchild), then the younger descendants will receive only the portion that their parents would have received.
  • If you are married with children, your assets will be distributed to your spouse automatically, unless your children are of different parentage. If that is the case, your spouse will get one half of the interest of your estate and your children the other half.

How are your debts settled if there is no will?

  • All debts are paid by the decedent’s estate. The only exception is if you co-signed a credit card or the debt is on a joint account, which would make you liable to pay the debts. In general, however, the decedent’s survivors are not personally responsible for paying their loved one’s debts.
  • In a similar fashion, mortgage debts are not the personal responsibility of any surviving relatives unless the account was co-signed or a joint account. After death, surviving relatives may continue to pay the mortgage and stay in the house or sell the house to pay off the remaining mortgage.
  • Life insurance is not part of the decedent’s estate. Instead, all insurance money goes to the ones named as beneficiaries.

The bottom line is that, should your loved one die without a will, the state of Texas has a plan to distribute the estate and handle debt. You are not responsible for any personal debts unless you co-signed them or they are on a joint account. Life insurance will be distributed based on who is named as a beneficiary. At Dossey & Jones, PLLC, our attorneys have extensive experience helping families navigate the complicated legal system in the wake of a death, and we can answer your questions every step of the way.

Call our Montgomery County​ estate planning lawyers at our office today at (281) 410-2792 to learn more.

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