Many married couples may assume that when one partner dies, the other one automatically receives the entire estate and may not complete proper estate planning because of this misconception. This isn’t always the case. The portion of a decedent’s estate that a spouse (or anyone else) will receive depends on whether or not the deceased spouse drafted a will and whether the deceased spouse had children from a previous marriage or other relationship. Dividing assets after one person in a marriage dies can get even more complicated for blended families or couples where one partner has children from a prior relationship. Having a will in place can help avoid many of these challenges.
What is Considered Community Property in Texas?
Community property is any property and earnings a married couple acquires during their marriage – or property that isn’t explicitly identified as separate. Separate property is any property owned proper to marriage or acquired after marriage by gift, devise, or descent.
Some examples of community property assets include:
- Money, including any cash and valuable coins and the contents of all joint bank accounts
- Stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other investments
- 401k’s and other retirement accounts
- Both developed and undeveloped real estate
- Cars, boats, motorcycles, and other vehicles
- Condominiums and vacation homes
- Furnishings and household goods
- Jewelry and watches
- Antiques and artwork
Other items may be considered community property that aren’t listed above. Consult with an estate planning lawyer if you’re unsure what would be regarded as community property and included in the estate.
Spousal Inheritance in Texas When There is a Will
Texas inheritance laws, when a person dies with a will in place, typically follow the instructions the deceased stipulated in their will. Many married couples outline a specific amount of their estate to go to their spouse and then other beneficiaries. But it’s important to remember that a will can only dispose of the community property of the deceased person. The surviving spouse retains their half of any community property.
Spousal Inheritance in Texas When There is Not a Will
If one spouse dies without a will, then the estate is distributed as per the intestate succession laws in Texas, which determine which related individuals inherit the estate and how much of it. The deceased may have both community property and separate property in their estate. Separate property is any property not considered community property, typically assets acquired prior to marriage. Furthermore, if the deceased spouse inherited property while married, that inheritance is not considered community property.
Texas intestate succession laws determine how a spouse’s community and separate property is distributed. For community property, if all surviving children are also the children of the surviving spouse, then the surviving spouse inherits the decedent’s share of the community property. In the case of a blended family, the surviving spouse retains their community property share but the decedent’s share goes to the decedent’s children.
The succession laws also allow half of the deceased spouse’s separate property to be distributed to the spouse if there are no children, and the remaining half of the separate property to be distributed to the deceased’s parents or siblings. If the couple has surviving children, the spouse receives 1/3 of the separate property, and the children 2/3 divided equally.
Do You Need Estate Planning Services in Dallas?
Losing a spouse is a painful time, especially when questions about the division of property are involved. If you have questions about estate planning services about your legal rights to the property after a loved one dies, contact an estate planning attorney for a compassionate case review.