The Complexities of Intestacy in Blended Families

Can Stepchildren Force a Surviving Spouse to Sell Homestead Property?

by Rania Combs

Conflicts often arise in blended families when one spouse dies. This is especially true if the deceased spouse’s children and their stepparent do not have a close relationship. Problems are compounded when the deceased spouse dies intestate (without a Will).

How is Property Distributed When a Spouse Dies without a Will in a Blended Family?

In Texas, when someone dies without a Will, the Texas intestacy statutes dictate how property will be divided at death.

  1. Many couples believe that a surviving spouse will inherit all the deceased spouse’s share of community property. That is not the case when there is no Will in blended families. The deceased spouse’s share in community property passes to the deceased spouse’s children, not the surviving spouse.
  2. If the deceased spouse had property classified as separate property, the surviving spouse inherits only a life estate in one-third of that property. The deceased spouse’s children inherit the remainder in equal shares.

Homestead Property

A deceased spouse’s children may want to take their share of their inheritance and sever ties with their stepparent after their parent’s death. However, cutting ties can be difficult when the property is homestead property. This is true even if the property classified as the deceased spouse’s separate property. It can also be a problem when the deceased spouse leaves a Will.

Certain constitutional protections are available for surviving spouses in Texas. Surviving spouses have a constitutional right to reside in a homestead for the term of their life. They cannot be forced to sell the property as long as they occupy and use it.

The property’s heirs may be able to take possession of the property if they demonstrate the surviving spouse abandoned it. However, abandonment is hard to prove. In fact, there is authority stating that a surviving spouse can retain a life estate even if he or she moves out and rents the property to someone else.

Nevertheless, if the surviving spouse sells the property during his or her lifetime or elects to no longer use or occupy the property as his or her homestead, then the proceeds of the sale can be divided among the respective owners of the property.

Otherwise, stepchildren will simply have to wait until the surviving spouse dies to take control of their share of the homestead.

About Rania

Rania graduated magna cum laude from South Texas College of Law Houston and is the founder of Rania Combs Law, PLLC. She has been licensed to practice law since 1994 and enjoys helping clients in Texas and North Carolina create estate plans that give them peace of mind.

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  1. E

    March 11, 2016 at 11:19pm

    Stepdad taking care of me since I was 8 years old, died without will but had a surving wife do I have rights as a stepchild?

    1. Rania Combs

      March 23, 2016 at 10:20am

      By making a Will, stepparents can ensure that their stepchildren inherit from their estates. But unless the stepparent has legally adopted the stepchild, the lack of a biological relationship will preclude a stepchild from inheriting by virtue of the Texas intestacy statutes.

  2. Melinda Estrada

    April 8, 2019 at 3:15pm

    Iam a widow in the state of Texas my spouse died without a will. He owned our house before our marriage, but it still had a mortgage. Before he passed we payed off the mortgage. I know it’s my homestead but can I force his children to buy me out?

    1. Rania Combs

      April 24, 2019 at 4:52pm



    January 20, 2021 at 1:29am

    My mom died 3 years ago. My stepdad is still alive and I have no relationship with him. They acquired several properties while married. Can I request him to buy me out since my mom left no will? He rents those properties out in Texas.

    1. Rania Combs

      February 9, 2021 at 3:23pm

      I recommend that you engage a lawyer in the county where your mother resided to advise you on the best course of action under the circumstances.

  4. Tammy Baker

    March 2, 2021 at 7:50pm

    My parents owned their house together in Texas. My father died without a will, so my mom still has the house. She was going to sell it, but when she found out that she would have to give have the profits to my father’s children she decided to keep it. Can she rent it out? My mother has a will, but I wanted to know what happens if it transfers to me both of their only daughter together, and my mother willed her half to me. Can I keep the property and continue to rent it out?

    1. Rania Combs

      March 4, 2021 at 11:25am

      When a married person dies without a Will and has children from another relationship, the deceased spouse’s share of the community property passes to the deceased spouse’s children. A surviving spouse will not be able to sell the property without the joinder of the children who own an interest in the property.

      In Texas, a deceased spouse has a right to live in a homestead for the term of the spouse’s life and cannot be forced to sell. The following article may answer your question: What are the Rights and Responsibilities of Life Tenants in Texas?

      An individual cannot transfer, during life or at death, any interest that individual does not own.

  5. roger jones

    November 1, 2021 at 4:32pm

    My dad died just a few months ago. He did not have a will as far as I know.. my stepmom is selling the house they bought while married.. she is wanting my brother and me to fill out and sign an heir of ownership( i think that’s what it’s called). 1st. Is that correct on what she is doing? 2nd. do my brother and I have rights to half the property? the house is homesteaded.

    1. Rania Combs

      November 2, 2021 at 10:45am

      When a married person dies without a Will and has children from another relationship, the deceased spouse’s share in community property passes to the deceased spouse’s children. However, surviving spouses have a constitutional right to reside in a homestead for the term of their life. They cannot be forced to sell the property as long as they occupy and use it.

  6. Josephine

    June 1, 2022 at 10:36pm

    Is this the same in Connecticut?

    1. Rania Combs

      June 6, 2022 at 4:53pm

      All states have different laws. A lawyer licensed in Connecticut will be able to advise you about that state’s laws.

  7. Kristie

    April 4, 2023 at 3:22pm

    My husband and I married in Texas and we each had kids so blended family….My husband passed away and I know I will owe his children his portion of the (Texas) home when I sell. Is there a formula to calculate the amount owed? Can I determine that now and not have to wait until I decide to sell? I would like to pay them now, if I can and just be done with it.

    1. Rania Combs

      April 18, 2023 at 2:40pm

      The amount they would be entitled to will depend on whether the home was separate property or community property and the amount of equity in the home at the date of death. It is possible to reach an agreement with them to compensate them for their share before you sell if they are amenable. I recommend engaging an attorney in the community where you reside for assistance with this matter.