In community property states like Texas, most property acquired by either spouse during a marriage is by law jointly owned by both of them. Upon divorce, the community property is evenly split. But what happens when a husband or wife dies while the marriage is in effect? Does the surviving spouse get everything or do other family members have a right to share?
If a person dies without a will (known as dying intestate), how property is transferred depends in part on whether it is community property or separate property. While most assets received by either spouse during the marriage are considered community property, each spouse can also have his or her own separate property. This includes assets that a spouse owned prior to getting married. It also includes inheritances and gifts received by one spouse during marriage. To complicate matters, separate property can become community property through commingling, such as when money inherited by one spouse is placed into the couple’s joint bank account.
As for what happens at death, here is a basic outline of different inheritance possibilities:
These are the most common scenarios that a family can experience. There may also be more complex inheritance situations involving, for example, adopted children, half siblings and extended family members.
The best way to prevent uncertainty about inheritance is by creating a will or trust. Using such documents, you can, for the most part, dictate how you want your assets distributed and to whom. However, the will or trust must be valid under state law, which can be achieved with the assistance of a qualified estate planning lawyer.
At Hayes, Berry, White & Vanzant, LLP, our attorneys are kind and compassionate, while working to protect your inheritance rights. To discuss estate planning, probate or any related issue, please call 940-230-2386 or contact us online. We have offices in Denton, Flower Mound, Gainesville and Celina.
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