Understanding Texas Estate Laws
When a family member or loved one passes away, grief and mourning can easily take over. Dealing with the loss of a loved one can make handling their affairs difficult to process. Understanding how Texas estate laws work and hiring an estate attorney can help you navigate the probate process to ensure everything is handled properly. Texas estate laws work differently depending on whether or not the deceased left behind a will.
Probate with a Will
If the deceased left behind a will, the estate laws require courts to follow the will as written unless someone wishes to contest it. An estate attorney helps someone create and certify a will and ensures that the courts follow the will. A will allows the estate to be passed on to whomever the deceased named, overriding the default laws of heirship.
Contesting a Will
It is possible that an interested party can contest a will. Texas Estates Code places a two-year statute of limitations on a contested lawsuit, beginning once the will enters probate. There are four main reasons an interested party may contest a will with legal standing.
Lack of Testamentary Capacity
Being of ‘sound mind’ is necessary when signing a will. Testamentary capacity measures one’s legal ability to create or alter a will. An interested party may contest that the testator was not mentally aware of what was going on when creating or signing the will, and thus it has no legal standing.
Although harder to prove because the testator is unable to make a statement, undue influence can also invalidate a will. When making a will, it’s possible that some are influenced by outside sources, such as threats, to create certain clauses in the will. An estate attorney can help pick apart a will and examine other legal evidence to prove if there was any undue influence.
Simply writing a will up may not be enough to make it legally binding. When the creator signs the will, specific formalities and steps must take place according to Texas state laws. If there are missing signatures or improperly filed forms, a will can be contested under lack of due execution.
There are several other estate laws and procedures that can make a will a complex legal document. Some aspects of the will could have issues with the legalities, depending on the number of assets and heirs included. An experienced estate attorney can examine the will to find any other legal issues that may render the will invalid.
Probate Without a Will
If the deceased did not leave a will, then Texas estate laws pass their assets on to their heirs. Heirs are determined by the closest living relatives and can differ depending on the deceased’s family situation. The division of an estate is divided into two categories; community property, owned by the deceased and a spouse together, and separate property, owned by a deceased before marriage or owned solely by them. If the deceased was never married, all property is separate.
Estate Laws if Married
Community property goes to the deceased’s living spouse unless the deceased has children from a different relationship. In that case, the spouse receives 50%, and the remaining children split the other 50%. For separate property, the spouse receives 1/3 of the assets while all children equally split the remaining 2/3, even children for whom the surviving spouse is a parent.
Estate Laws if Unmarried
If the deceased is not married when they die, their estate divides equally among their children. However, if a child has already died but has children of their own, they will also be able to receive part of the estate.
If the deceased is not married and does not have any children, courts divide the estate among parents and siblings. And if both parents are alive, they split the estate 50/50. However, if only one parent is alive, they’ll receive 50% of the estate, and the remainder is split among surviving siblings. If both parents are deceased, the estate divides equally among siblings.
Hire an Estate Attorney Today
Texas estate laws can be pretty complicated. Working with an estate attorney can help ensure all property and assets are handled properly. At the Hager Law Firm, we can help you create and legalize your will. We also provide estate law assistance to surviving loved ones who may have questions or reasons to contest a will after it enters probate. Having a will is the best way to ensure that your assets are handled as you want them to be. If you need help with planning your will or understanding the will of a loved one, call the Hager Law Firm today at (903) 466-0001.