How Property Distributed When Someone Dies Without A Will

If You Don’t Have a Will, Texas Makes One For You

by Rania Combs

I received a phone call this week from a woman I’ll call Ellen, whose grandfather had succumbed to pancreatic cancer. His own children were unwilling to care for him while he was ill, so Ellen moved into his home and cared for him until he died.

old holding hand

As an expression of his gratitude, Ellen’s grandfather promised he would give her his house and the balance of his large bank account when he died. Unfortunately, his wishes will not be carried out.

Despite wanting his granddaughter to inherit the balance of his bank account, he named one of his daughters as power of attorney over that account. When his daughter discovered that he had been admitted to the hospital and was dying, she withdrew all the money from the account. She also evicted Ellen from her grandfather’s house after he died.

Ellen called wondering if there was anything she could do under the circumstances. Unfortunately there isn’t because her grandfather did not have a Will.

Texans have the freedom to distribute their property any way they choose when they die by making a Will. However, if they die without Will in Texas, their assets will be distributed according to a statutory formula that doesn’t take into account their wishes and unique circumstances.

In this situation, since Ellen’s grandfather died unmarried and was survived by all his children, his property will pass to his children, not to his granddaughter. He could have ensured that the property would pass to Ellen by naming her as the beneficiary of his estate in a Will.

To learn more about how property is distributed when Texan’s die without a Will, read: What Happens if You Die Without a Will in Texas.

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. Jo Ann

    July 1, 2019 at 3:11pm

    I have only one daughter. Will she be able to sell my house that is paid for without going to probate court. My will allows my daughter to receive all of my estate.

    1. Rania Combs

      July 18, 2019 at 11:08am

      Simply having a Will does not avoid a probate proceeding. Wills go through probate, the process the Will is proved to be valid. If you want to transfer the home to your daughter without probate, please read about how a transfer on death deed may help: The Texas Transfer on Death Deed.