So what happens when a family member dies without a will? When someone does not have a will at the time of their passing it is called dying Intestate. When someone dies intestate, the probate court must decide how to distribute the estate. In Texas, the court has the Texas Probate Code to follow. Other states are not so lucky to have the rules spelled out. Texas is a community property state. So in Texas the estate property is generally broken down in the following manner:
Community Property is property acquired during the course of the marriage.
Separate Property is property acquired prior to the marriage, is derived from property acquired prior to the marriage, or property received through gift or inheritance/devisement.
And of course let's through in another set of definitions because this is complicated enough:
Real property is land and all improvements and fixtures there upon
Personal property is everything else.
And don't forget you have probate assets and non-probate assets. Life insurance is not a probate asset. It is a contract between two parties for the benefit of a 3rd party beneficiary. (say that 3 times fast).
Believe it or not I am explaining this is the simplest terms I can. So what does all this have to do with Grandpa Joe?
If Grandpa Joe only married one woman and was still married to her up until his passing, and never had kids outside his marriage and did not own anything of value prior to marrying this wonderful woman, then its easy. It all goes to her and their children and grandchildren will inherit through her.
If Grandpa Joe had the family property given to him by his father's passing then that is separate property by devisement. Even if he got the property during the marriage. Grandma Georgina has a 1/3 interest life estate in the property. The children have 100% interest split equally among them.
HOWEVER, it is not always that clear cut. We live in a world of blended families. Divorce, adoptions, step children, half-siblings. It is not always pretty or cut and dry. I will tackle this issue in the next Blog. Promise.
If you want to have a say in how your estate will be divided up, even if you do not own much, WRITE A WILL. Go talk to an attorney. Come talk to me, I'd love that. If for no other reason, just to have someone clarify all the ins and outs of estate planning. Even if it is not me, talk to an attorney. Put your wishes on paper in the proper, legal manner. Your family will thank you for it, posthumously.