When it comes to will preparation and estate planning, the majority of Americans have no idea what they’re doing.
In fact, 60 percent of Americans do not have a will and have not done any kind of estate preparation.
If you’re part of this group, what’s holding you back? Is it a lack of knowledge regarding inheritance laws in your state?
If this is the case for you, keep reading. Explained below is some helpful information on the most important Texas inheritance laws.
Inheritance and Estate Taxes
The state of Texas does not have any inheritance of estate taxes. Someone will likely have to file some taxes on your behalf after your death, though, including the following:
- Final federal and state income tax returns
- Federal estate/trust income tax return
- Federal estate tax return
The final federal and state tax returns, as well as the federal estate/trust income tax return, are all due by tax day of the year following your death.
The federal estate tax return is due within nine months of your death. A six-month extension is available for this return as well.
Dying Without a Will
If you die without a will in the state of Texas and your estate is worth more than $75,000, it will go into probate. The court will appoint an executor to manage the estate during this process.
If your estate is worth less than $75,000, it is not required to go through court. Instead, your heirs will be able to file a small estate affidavit 30 days after your death. They can use this affidavit to acquire the property from your estate.
If you’re married at the time of your death, all the property received during your marriage is considered to be community property that is owned jointly by both you and your spouse.
Inheritances and gifts do not automatically become community property. If you comingle inheritances and gifts in your and your spouse’s joint bank accounts, though, they may become community property.
Separate property is divided into two categories: personal property and real property.
Personal property includes things like cash, investments, vehicles, and memorabilia. Real property includes land and homesteads.
Spousal Inheritance Rights
The state of Texas recognizes common law marriages as well as traditional marriages. In either of these cases, all of your community property will go to your surviving spouse.
The exception, though, is if one or more of your children is from someone other than your surviving spouse. If this is the case, the state of Texas affords community property to the children.
Separate property, on the other hand, gets divided between your surviving spouse and your children. Two-thirds of the property will go to your children and one-third will go two your spouse. This is the case for both personal property and real property.
Children’s Inheritance Rights
Biological children have strong inheritance rights in the state of Texas. The state also has ruled that adopted children have the same inheritance rights as biological children. This includes children who were adopted as adults.
If you do not make a will prior to your death, according to the sucession plan of the state of Texas, stepchildren will not receive a part of your estate. The state doesn’t consider anyone related to you through marriage to be an automatic heir.
Because of this, if you want your stepchildren to have a claim to your estate, you’ll need to include that in your will.
Illegitimate Children’s Inheritance Rights
The state of Texas does recognize illegitimate children.
They have complete inheritance rights. This includes rights to inheritances fro their parents, as well as their parents’ ancestors and descendants.
Single Individuals Without Children
The process of distributing inheritance from single individuals who do not have children is quite complicated.
If you do not have a will, the state will take the following approaches when it comes to distributing your estate:
- First, 1/2 of your estate will go to each of your parents
- If you only have one parent, half will go to that parent and half will be split among your siblings
- If you have no parents, the estate will be split among your siblings
- If you have no siblings, the estate will go to your nieces and nephews
- If you have no nieces and nephews, the estate will go to your maternal and paternal grandparents
- If you only have grandparents on one side, half of the estate will go to your aunts and uncles
- If you have no grandparents, the estate will go to your aunts and uncles
- If you have no aunts and uncles, it will go to the closest lineal relative
The process of distributing your wealth if you don’t have a will is quite complex. Now, you can see why it’s so important to put together a will early.
Tips for Planning Your Estate in Texas
You might be feeling a bit overwhelmed after reviewing these important Texas inheritance laws. The good news, though, is that we’re also going to give you some practical advice for planning your estate.
Here are some tips to help you start navigating these laws and getting prepared for the future:
- Start with a will: Hire an estate planning attorney to help you put together a will right away
- Consider a living trust: This will help those who survive you to avoid probate court
- Make healthcare directives
- Appoint a financial power of attorney
- Make final arrangements: This includes information regarding organ donation and body disposition
Be sure to store all your estate planning documents in one location. Share the location of these documents with your children or other beneficiaries, too.
Need More Help Understanding Texas Inheritance Laws?
As you can see, there are a lot of Texas inheritance laws you need to keep in mind when you’re planning your estate.
Hopefully, this breakdown of some of the most important laws will help to simplify the planning process for you.
There’s a good chance you need additional help, though, especially if you’re just getting started with planning your estate.
If you need extra guidance, we can help. Use our free search tool today to find an estate planning lawyer near you who can walk you through the process and make sure your estate is in good shape.