Probate of Estate without a Will
The process of a named executor carrying out a deceased person’s will and transferring or resolving their assets and debts is what most people think of when they think of “probate.” What happens, though, if a person dies in the state of Texas without a last will or testament?
A person dying without a last will is a lot more common than you may assume. Probate without a will is commonplace in Courts — and you might be surprised to learn that this judicial process is not all that different from probate with a will.
Why do people need will if the probate process in Texas is the same whether or not there is a will? There is one big difference between the two processes.
When a person dies with a last will, the Court and named executor must follow the instructions in the will — with a few exceptions, of course — about who will serve as the estate’s legal representative and how the decedent’s assets and inheritance will be distributed. However, when a person dies without a will in place, they are said to have died “intestate.” In such instances, the decedent’s assets and inheritance will be distributed in a predetermined order under Texas probate law. This is also known as “intestate succession.”
So the main difference between probate with a will and probate without a will is not in how these judicial processes work but in who makes all the decisions — the deceased or the state.
After the debts have been paid off, any remaining assets will be distributed in an order predetermined by the state of Texas and depending on the unique circumstances of the case. The following is the order in which assets are usually distributed in intestate succession:
- Surviving Spouse: All of the assets will most likely pass to the surviving spouse. At the very least, they will inherit a third to half of the assets.
- Children: Natural or adopted children will receive any assets that the surviving spouse did not inherit. If the surviving spouse passes away, they will inherit all the assets.
- Parents: Only if there is no surviving spouse or children do the deceased’s parents receive an inheritance.
- Siblings: Siblings of the deceased often inherit a part of the estate if there is no surviving spouse or children.
- Extended Family: If there are no immediate family members of the deceased (spouse, children, parents, siblings), cousins, aunts, or uncles may be entitled to an inheritance.
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Intestate succession matters can often include family disagreements over who should administer the estate and whether the property should be included in the estate. These disagreements can cause the estate’s assets to be squandered and the probate process to be delayed.
With over 15 years of legal experience, the Houston Lawyers at Daniel Albert Law can provide assistance and support in matters involving intestate succession disputes. The death of a loved one can be traumatic, and navigating the complexities of the probate process is probably the last thing on your mind. We understand this — so our goal is to get you through this process as quickly and smoothly as possible so you can move on with your life. Call us at or book an online consultation to speak with one of our expert attorneys today.