Dealing with the death of a loved one is never easy, but it can be especially challenging when they pass away without a will. This is what is commonly referred to as an estate without a will or “intestate succession.” In this case study, we will explore the complex issues that can arise in these situations, and how to navigate the probate process in Texas. We will focus on the story of a woman who lost her partner of nearly 20 years without a will, and is now facing significant financial and legal challenges. If you are dealing with an Estate Without a Will, it is essential to seek the advice of an experienced probate attorney who can help you protect your rights and navigate this difficult time.
When someone dies without a will, the laws of intestate succession determine how their estate is distributed. In Texas, the surviving spouse is given priority, followed by the children of the deceased. If there is no surviving spouse, then the children would inherit the estate. If there are no surviving children, then the estate would go to the deceased’s parents or siblings.
The man in our case study passed away on July 8th, 2020, without leaving a will. He had been living with the woman for almost 20 years, and she believes that they were in a common law marriage. The man had four children, three of whom were in their 40s and one who was attending college in Oklahoma. The woman needs access to an account that the man had, which contains some of the college money for the youngest child and some funds to pay her back for the funeral expenses. However, she is not sure where she stands legally.
Establishing a Common Law Marriage
The woman in our case study is claiming to be the common law wife of the deceased man. To establish a common law marriage in Texas, she would have to show that she and the man agreed to be married, lived together in Texas as husband and wife, and held themselves out to others as being married.
Proving that a common law marriage existed can be challenging, especially if there is no written agreement or formal ceremony. However, the woman may be able to provide evidence of their relationship, such as joint bank accounts, shared living expenses, or statements from friends and family who knew them as a couple.
Intestate Succession in Texas (Estate Without a Will)
If the woman is successful in establishing a common law marriage, she would be entitled to the same rights as a legally married spouse. If the woman is not successful in establishing a common law marriage, then the man’s estate would be distributed according to the laws of intestate succession. In this case, the children would inherit the estate equally.
Navigating the Probate Process
The probate process in Texas can be complex, especially if there is no will or if there are disputes among family members. If the woman is entitled to a share of the estate, she may need to hire an attorney to help her navigate the probate process and protect her rights.
During probate, the court will appoint an executor to manage the deceased’s estate, pay off any debts or taxes, and distribute the remaining assets according to the laws of intestate succession. If the woman is entitled to a share of the estate, the executor would be responsible for ensuring that she receives her fair share.
The probate process can take several months or even years, depending on the size and complexity of the estate. It is essential to have an experienced probate attorney on your side to help you navigate the process and ensure that your rights are protected.
Dealing with Debts and Obligations
In addition to dealing with the distribution of the estate, the woman may also need to deal with any debts or obligations that the deceased had. For example, if there are outstanding medical bills or credit card debts, these would need to be paid off before the estate can be distributed.
If there are not enough assets in the estate to pay off all of the debts, then the remaining debts may be forgiven. However, it is essential to have an experienced probate attorney to help you navigate these complex issues and ensure that you are not held responsible for any debts that are not yours.
In addition to debts, the woman may also need to deal with any contractual obligations that the deceased had. For example, if the man had a life insurance policy or retirement account with a designated beneficiary, the funds from these accounts would go directly to the designated beneficiary and would not be subject to probate.
Dealing with the death of a loved one is always difficult, but it can be especially challenging when there is no will and disputes arise among family members. If you find yourself in a situation similar to the woman in our case study, it is essential to seek the advice of an experienced probate attorney who can help you navigate the complex probate process and protect your rights.
Do you need help with a probate matter in Austin or the surrounding area? We are Austin probate attorneys. We help clients navigate the probate process. Call today for a free confidential consultation, 512-812-9579.
Our Austin Probate Attorneys provide a full range of probate services to our clients, including helping with intestate cases. Affordable rates, fixed fees, and payment plans are available. We provide step-by-step instructions, guidance, checklists, and more for completing the probate process. We have years of combined experience we can use to support and guide you with probate and estate matters. Call us today for a FREE attorney consultation.
The content of this website is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. The information presented may not apply to your situation and should not be acted upon without consulting a qualified probate attorney. We encourage you to seek the advice of a competent attorney with any legal questions you may have.