If you have wondered who gets your property if you don’t have a will, the answer is that your assets will be distributed according to Texas law.

It can be tricky to figure out “who gets what” because the answer depends on several factors. Here are the basic high points.

Single persons

For single persons who die with surviving children, all of your property will go to your children.  If you have no surviving children (or never had any children to begin with), but your parents are living, each parent will get an equal share of your property. If your parents are already gone, everything will go to your brothers and sisters.

Married persons

The law is different if you’re married and your spouse survives you.  It also depends on whether you have both separate and community property.

Separate property

Separate property of a married person is any property you owned before you got married. It also includes property that you receive by gift or inheritance after you are married. When you die, if you have children that are living, your spouse will get one-third of your personal property and a life estate in one-third of your real estate. Your children will receive two-thirds of your personal property, two-thirds of your real estate, and the final one-third of the real estate after your spouse dies.

Community property

Community property is treated differently.  A community asset is any property that is purchased after the date of marriage. One-half of the community property asset is owned by the husband and the other half is owned by the wife. Upon your death, your spouse already owns 1/2 of the community assets.  The only question is “who gets your half?”

If your spouse survives you, he or she will get your half of the community property if either of the following conditions are met: (1) you have no surviving children, or (2) you have surviving children and your spouse is also a parent of those children. If you have children that survive you, but they are not also your spouse’s children, your children get your half of the community property.

Does this seem complicated to you?  Remember, I’ve only touched on the high points—it can get even more complicated!

It can be very important it is to create your own estate plan.  The answer to who gets your property if you don’t have a will depends on your family circumstances at the time of your death.  You may not want to rely on the law to make the choices for you.

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