Recently, Express News reported on a trucking tycoon who was killed at age 50 in a motor vehicle accident. He was allegedly being chased by his wife while riding his motorcycle. Police ruled that the death was a homicide, although the man's children are defending their mother, who has been accused of the crime. As complex as the criminal matters are, the probate matters in the case may be just as complicated. The reason: the deceased's half of a community estate is valued at $15.5 million and the trucking tycoon had no will.
The probate process in Texas involves property being distributed to heirs named in the will. When there is no valid will dictating who should receive money and assets, intestacy laws apply and the court must make a decision on who should receive money and property from the estate by following these laws. It is important to get help from a probate attorney whenever someone passes away, but especially essential when there is a large estate at stake or when no will has been written.
The Texas Probate Process with No Will
In Texas, community property rules apply and give each spouse an interest in marital property. This means that when a person dies, regardless of his or her will, the spouse is entitled to half of the marital estate. In the case of the trucking tycoon, the deceased's wife gets half of the property even if it turns out that she was responsible for her husband's death.
However, she will be disqualified from collecting from his life insurance policy because someone who commits a murder cannot receive money from the life insurance policy of the person she killed. This is true even if the murdered is a designated beneficiary on the policy; the money will go to the secondary beneficiaries and will transfer outside of probate like all life insurance payouts.
When a person has a will, the estate is valued, claims are made on the estate from creditors, debts are paid and assets are distributed. If there is no will, then the estate still must go through probate. Claims against the estate from debtors are satisfied first. Remaining money and property is divided up under Texas intestacy laws.
These laws allow money to pass to a person's parents if he or she is single and both parents are alive. If only one parent is alive and there are siblings or nieces and nephews, then the parent receives half of the estate and the siblings or their descendants split the other half. If no parents are alive and a person is single, his or her estate passes to siblings or their descendants or to other close relatives if there are no siblings.
If a person dies while married, community property goes to the spouse under normal circumstances. The spouse can receive 100 percent if you have only shared children. If you have children outside of the marriage, your spouse will receive half of the property and the children will receive the other half. In the case of the trucking tycoon, if it turns out that his wife was responsible for the murder, then she will likely only receive her half under community property rules and the remainder will pass to the children after claims on the estate are paid.
Contact Bertolino LLP at 512-717-5432 to schedule a consultation with a probate lawyer today.