What Are the Legal Rights of a Surviving Spouse in Houston

The death of a spouse is a testing time and filled with a traumatic experience. If the deceased spouse has not made the proper legal Will, it becomes even more traumatic for the surviving spouse. Consulting an experienced probate attorney can help in successfully completing a probate without a Will. Adherence to time-sensitive deadlines is very important for the spouse to safeguard their spousal entitlements.

The provisions of Texas probate is explained briefly to help understand the action the spouse should initiate if the deceased spouse has not named beneficiaries or made a Will.

1. Intestate


Intestate succession law applies when the deceased individual has not made a Will. The distribution of the estate belonging to the deceased is done based on the statutory framework guidelines. This is known as Intestate Administration.

Two types of Probate

When the deceased individual leaves behind a legally valid will with instructions for distribution of assets and properties. This is known as testate administration.

When no Will is made by the deceased, intestate probate proceedings are initiated. The legal process of intestate administration takes a long time. There may be challenges and disputes and these may have to be settled through mediation or by the courts. It could take several months or years for the process to be completed.

2. Independent or Dependent Administration

Probate cases can also be either independent administration or dependent administration. An executor or named is assigned under Independent administration. This executor mainly acts independently of courts and to clear debts, sell the assets and distribute the proceeds to the beneficiaries. This is generally followed for testate probate. Nevertheless, it can be done under some circumstances when the deceased has not made a valid Will.

The executor performs his duties working closely with the court officials under their supervision in case of dependent administration. The process known as the muniment of title, can be adapted for transfer of title to the beneficiaries without going through the process of probate. This can happen when the deceased has left behind a valid Will.

3. Right of Heirship

The right of heirship is decided by the courts for intestate cases in the state of Texas. The guidelines used for determining the right of heirship are:

  • If there are no children then the spouse inherits 100 percent of all assets and properties. If there are children and other descendants, the surviving spouse receives one third of the estate. The distribution of the remaining two-third is among children and other descendants. If there are living parents and siblings of the deceased, they may also stake a claim for a share of the estate only if there are no children.

  • When there is no surviving spouse, 100 percent of the estate is distributed equally to the children and their descendants. If there are no surviving children, the living parents get the right to inherit followed by siblings and their descendants and then grandparents.

  • The precise order of heirship varies from one case to the other. An experienced attorney is required to make certain that the process of determination is completed effectively for probate in Texas without a Will.

Any family grieving the loss of a loved one should seek the guidance of legal experts to help them complete the process of distribution of estate in case of intestate probate in Texas without a Will.

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