How Closest Family Member Is Determined in Texas
When a family member suddenly passes away, it can be a time of grief for their surviving loved ones. This turmoil increases if the decedent (the person who has died) did not have a will. Without a will, ownership of property, money, and other estates can be a murky business. Texas laws will dictate who inherits the estate of the decedent based on the next of kin. A Tyler estate lawyer can help you determine who qualifies as the closest family member and how the estate will be handed down.
In Texas, the closest family member and breakdown of the estate is determined depending on the decedent’s family status. The next of kin is decided based on the following order of descent:
- Surviving spouse
- Children’s descendants
- Siblings’ descendants
- Paternal and maternal kindred
Married with Children
When someone married with children passes away, it’s usually easy to determine the next of kin. In the order of descent for beneficiaries, the top three are, in order, the surviving spouse, surviving children, and the surviving children’s descendants. However, the surviving spouse and children do share the estate. The estate’s division between them is based on the type of property. The relationship between the surviving spouse and children also applies.
For separate property real estate, the surviving spouse will inherit 1/3 of the property for as long as they are alive. The other 2/3 of the property will go to the children and the descendants of children. The spouse cannot sell, give away, or will away the property without the signed consent of the children and their descendants. When the surviving spouse passes away, the 1/3 they inherited will be redistributed to the surviving children and their descendants.
For separate personal property, the surviving spouse will inherit 1/3 of the property. The children and descendants of children will inherit 2/3 of the property. Unlike real estate property, the 1/3 that the spouse inherited can be sold, given away, or willed away. They don’t need the consent of the children and their descendants.
For community property, the breakdown of inheritance depends on the relationship between the surviving spouse and surviving children. In the case that all surviving children are also descendants of the surviving spouse, the spouse will inherit 100% of the property. If there are children outside of the existing marriage, ½ will go to the surviving spouse. The other half will go to the children.
Married Without Children
If a decedent is married with no children, all property outside of separate real estate goes to the surviving spouse. Real estate inheritance is decided by the next in the line of succession for beneficiaries: parents, siblings, and siblings’ descendants.
If both parents are alive, ¼ of the property goes to the mother, ¼ to the father, and ½ to the surviving spouse. Should only one parent survive, ¼ goes to said parent, ¼ goes to siblings or their descendants, and ½ goes to the surviving spouse. If the decedent has no siblings or descendants, then ½ goes to the parent and ½ goes to the surviving spouse. And if there are no surviving parents but there are siblings, ½ goes to the siblings or their descendants, and ½ to the surviving spouse. However, if there are no surviving parents or siblings and their descendants, 100% of the property goes to the surviving spouse.
Single Without Children
For example, an unmarried decedent did not have children. In that case, the parents and the surviving siblings would distribute the estate between them. However, if the decedent had no surviving siblings or descendants, the mother and father would split the property 50/50. And if there are surviving siblings or descendants, then 1/2 would go to the father or mother, and ½ would go to brothers and sisters.
Single With Children
If a decedent was not married but had children, the children and their descendants would equally split the estate between them.
A Tyler Estate Lawyer Can Help
When someone dies suddenly without a will, knowing who the closest family members are is vital for handling the decedent’s affairs. Having a Tyler estate lawyer on your side can help you sort through the confusion. Attorney Hager is an experienced estate lawyer. She has helped several families in the Tyler, Texas area determine next of kin and sort out estate inheritance. You can call the Hager Law Firm today at (903) 466-0001 to schedule a consultation about your estate law needs. With Attorney Hager’s help, you can focus on the grieving process while she sorts out the legalities for you.