Do Widows Have Guaranteed Rights Over Estates in TX?
There are few things more difficult than dealing with the loss of a spouse. Even when it is expected and planned for, there can be many legal and logistical challenges. You may be wondering: What rights do widows have over estates in Texas? The answer depends on many different factors—including whether there is an estate plan in place. In this article, our Pearland estate planning attorney explains the key things to know about the rights of widows in Texas.
A Person Has the Right to Control Their Own Estate
As a starting point, it is important to emphasize that a person can retain broad control over what happens to their own property and assets through estate planning. If a person passes away with a will and/or other valid estate planning documents—the instructions within those documents will be followed – except in very rare situations where some sort of bad action has taken place and can be proven. In other words, the rights of a widow or widower will depend, in part, on their deceased spouse’s estate plan.
A person could leave all of their personal property (separate property) directly to their spouse in the estate plan. Alternatively, a person may decide to leave little or none of their separate property to their spouse. Ultimately, Texas probate courts will follow the instructions of a valid will, trust, and other estate planning documents.
Understanding the Rights of Widows/Widowers Without a Comprehensive Estate Plan
The rights of a widow or widower can get complicated if there is no estate plan or if there is an incomplete estate plan. When a person passes away without a valid will in Texas, they are deemed “intestate.” Their estate will be handled under the Texas intestacy laws (Tex. Est. Code § 201.001). In effect, this means that Texas law will determine who gets to inherit what. Here are the key things widows and widowers should understand about intestate succession in Texas:
- Community Property: Texas is a community property state. A widow or widower will retain all of the community property under Texas intestate laws if their deceased spouse had no kids, or their deceased spouse only had kids with them. If the deceased spouse has children from another relationship, then those children would have a partial claim to the community property.
- Separate Property: Separate property is handled differently under the Texas intestate laws. When there is no will in Texas, the widow or widower is entitled to half of the separate property and a partial life estate in the Decedent’s real property. The deceased next-of-kin (adult children, parents, siblings, etc.) will inherit the remaining share of the estate.
Get Help From Our Texas Estate Planning Lawyer Today
At John Powell III, P.C., our Texas estate planning, and probate lawyer has the professional experience that you can trust. If you have any specific questions or concerns about the rights of widows in Texas, we can help. Contact us today to arrange a completely confidential review and evaluation of your case. With a law office in Pearland, we provide estate planning services in Brazoria County, Fort Bend County, and Harris County.