What happens if someone dies without a will in Texas?

In previous blogs, we’ve covered the importance of estate planning and the reasons Texas residents should consider creating a last will and testament, even early in life. Because individuals do die without wills, the Texas Estate Code details procedures for heirship proceedings.

Heirship proceedings are authorized in a number of circumstances. First, if a person dies without an estate plan or will, then heirship can help family members work through the court to administer the estate. The proceedings may also be allowed if some property was left out of a will, no disposition was previously made on the estate in Texas, or the trustee cannot fully execute an estate without determining who the heirs of a decedent may be.

Heirship action can begin any time after a decedent has passed away and can be instituted by family members, trustees, creditors or guardian of the estate. During the heirship process, legal action is taken to seek out and protect all possible heirs of the estate, which means the court will appoint a separate attorney to represent the interests of any unknown heirs. It’s important for family members to understand the full context of heirship proceedings, because it may come as a surprise to learn that other individuals could share in an inheritance.

The best way to avoid surprises during the estate administration process is to work prior to a death to develop wills and other estate documents. In the absence of such planning, however, experienced legal assistance can offer family members some peace of mind during heirship proceedings. Even without a will, the Texas Estate Code offers some protection to certain types of heirs.

Source: Texas Estates Code, “Authorization and Procedures for Commencement of Proceeding to Declare Heirship” Oct. 10, 2014