What Happens to a House if the Owner Dies Without a Will?

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In an ideal world, all matters of inheritance would be decided by a will clearly stating the wishes of the deceased. However, death can come unexpectedly, and it’s not uncommon for a homeowner to die without leaving a will behind.

When a person dies without a will, they are said to have died intestate, and what happens to their property is decided by state laws known as intestacy statutes. Here is a basic overview of the intestacy statutes outlined in the Texas Estates Code.

Who gets my house if I die without a will?

What happens to your house after you die intestate is entirely dependent on which family members survive you. The two main factors that come into play are your marital status and whether or not you have children. Below are some explanations of what happens to your estate based on the composition of your surviving family.

Who inherits a house when a single person with no children dies without a will in Texas?

If you die with no spouse or children to inherit your home, the Texas Estates Code provides the following guidelines:

  1. If both of your parents are alive, they will split your estate equally.
  2. If only one of your parents is alive, that parent will receive half of your estate, and the other half will be split equally among any surviving siblings you have. If any of your siblings have died, their descendants will inherit their share. If you do not have any living siblings, nieces, or nephews, your surviving parent will inherit all of the estate.
  3. If your parents are no longer living, your siblings (or their descendants) will each receive an equal share of your estate.
  4. If you have no living parents, siblings, nieces, or nephews, your estate will be split into 2 equal shares. One share will go to any living relatives on your mother’s side of the family, and the other to any living relatives on your father’s side. If you have no living relatives on one side of your family, the other side will inherit all of your estate.
  5. If you have no living relatives at all, your estate will go to the State of Texas.

For example, say that when you die, you are survived by your mother, your brother, and your late sister’s son and daughter (your niece and nephew). In this case, 1/2 of your estate goes to your mother, 1/4 goes to your brother, 1/8 goes to your niece, and 1/8 goes to your nephew.

Who inherits a house when a single person with children dies without a will in Texas?

If you are single and all of your children survive you, they will each receive equal shares of your estate. However, if one or more of your children has predeceased you, their children (your grandchildren) will receive their share.

For example, say you are the parent of three children: two living daughters and one late son who has left behind 3 children of his own. In this situation, each of your daughters inherit 1/3 of your estate, and your son’s children split what would have been your son’s share among each other. This 1/3 is divided into 3 equal shares, meaning that each of your son’s children gets 1/9 of the property.

Who inherits a house when a married person with no children dies without a will in Texas?

You may assume that your home will automatically go to your husband or wife if you die intestate, but this is not always the case. Whether or not your spouse inherits your house depends on whether it is considered to be community property or separate property.

Your house is legally regarded as community property if you bought it after getting married. Community property goes to your spouse if you die intestate without children.

Your house is legally regarded as separate property if you bought it before you and your spouse were married or if you inherited it or received it as a gift (even if you were married when you acquired it). If your home is separate property, your spouse will only inherit half of the real property, with the other half going to parents, siblings, or other relatives the same way it would if you were single. Note that all of your personal property, such as furniture and vehicles, will still go to your spouse.

For example, say you bought your home before you were married. You die intestate and are survived by your wife and 2 siblings. In this case, your wife inherits 1/2 of the house, and each of your siblings inherits 1/4.

Who inherits a house when a married person with children dies without a will in Texas?

If you die intestate with a surviving spouse and children, your spouse will inherit your home if it is community property, provided that they are the parent of all of your living children. If any of your children are not related to your spouse, your spouse will only inherit 1/2 of your estate, with the other 1/2 being split equally among your children. If any of your children have predeceased you, their children (your grandchildren) will split their share among themselves.

For example, say you are survived by your husband, your son from a previous marriage, and your late daughter’s 2 sons (your grandson). Because your son is not the child of your husband, 1/2 of your community property goes to your husband, 1/4 goes to your son, 1/8 goes to one of your grandsons, and 1/8 goes to your other grandson.

If your house is separate property, your spouse will inherit 1/3 of your personal property and 1/3 of your real property. The remaining 2/3 of your estate will be split equally among your children (or their descendants).

For example, say you are survived by your wife, your son, and your daughter. Your wife inherits 1/3 of your separate property, your son inherits 1/3, and your daughter inherits 1/3.

If you are divorced or your spouse passed away before you, each of your children (or their descendants) will receive an equal share of your estate.

What happens if the home still has a mortgage attached to it?

You can find more information about what happens to an inherited home that still has a mortgage associated with it here.

Don’t leave the fate of your property to the state

Intestacy laws can be complicated, and in some cases, dying intestate can mean your property ends up getting distributed in a way you would not have wanted. The only way to guarantee that your home goes to the right person or people is to make your desires clear before you die. Regardless of your age, it is never too early to talk to your lawyer about creating a will.

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