January 29, 2024

Texas Intestacy (no will) for Real Property

Real Property -

Real Property is the legal term for things like your home, a second home.  You may generally think of it as "real estate".   Those are the words we see on all of the realtor ads and magazines in our mailboxes.

What happens to real property in probate court?  When you die without a valid will, Texas has set up default rules for how to divvy up the land and home to people in your life.  

The Texas Estates Code is too lengthy to detail here.   This summary intentionally leaves out scenarios, and therefore, rules.   It all depends on your situation.  Your attorney can help decipher your situation and match up the right rule.   Then you can explore options if you want your "stuff" to go differently.

Let's explore a common situation.   You are married, but your children are from a prior/different relationship.   If you die without a will what happens next with your home?  

When you own that home with your husband (community property) …

When you own the home yourself (separate property) ...  

Does this sound right for you?  

We are only talking about the home.  What about the rest of your investments and bank accounts, retirement plans, or life insurance provided by your employer?  

If you think about how everything gets divided up, are you happy with how Texas divided up your house?

Does that fit with your plan?  

… and what can you do to change things up a bit to better fit your situation?

Every state has rules to help the courts decide how to divide up your house (and the rest of your estate "stuff").  States write their own rules.  These succession, or intestacy, rules differ from state to state.  And the Federal government has no authority, or constitutional authority, to make the rules consistent.

While states come up with their own rules, they also encourage families to design their own outcomes.  To encourage families to get what they want, Texas provides for families to write wills, create trusts, spell out guardianship for children, and even manage your own life should you get sick.  Texas even helps you keep your plan private.   Nosy friends and neighbors won't be able to pry, and prey, on your family.

But Texas asks you to take the right steps too.   If you don’t have any plans drawn up, Texas has one for you.   If your plans don’t meet the rules, then they don’t qualify to override the estate plan drawn up for you by Texas.  Texas is not out to get you nor make your loved-ones suffer with a plan that doesn't seem fair.  Texas ONLY needs to have a plan for you in case you don’t have a plan for yourself.  

Our basic job is to

  1. Understand the nuances of your situation.
  2. Understand the family as a whole.
  3. Understand what you want your situation to be.
  4. Identify the relevant laws in play.
  5. Design the outcome your family wants.  
  6. Implement that plan.    

Learning the "state plan" could mean the laws of Texas and/or some other state.   Applying those plans to your situation involves analysis of the default rules and what matters to your family.  

We are here to help make sense of the rules.   We are here to make your plans ... YOUR PLANS!

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