Can You Contest an Estate if There is No Will?
The loss of a loved one is a traumatic and emotional experience. Soon after your loved one’s death, his or her estate has to be probated. Probate is a legal process in which the person’s will is executed and his or her property distributed to the beneficiaries. While the process is rather straightforward when there is a will in place, there can be confusion when the person who passed away did not have a will.
File a Petition in Probate Court
When a person dies without a will, he or she is considered to have died intestate. When there is no will, an heir may file a petition with probate court to administer the estate. Other people who feel they are justified may also file a petition. If more than one petition is filed, the judge will make a decision as to which person’s request is accepted.
The laws are different for those who die intestate, without a will, than for those with a will. A will provides guidance for how a person’s estate is to be divided. In the case of someone without a will, Texas law will govern how the estate is administered and how the deceased’s estate is dispersed.
Heirs When a Person Dies Intestate
The law provides for the distribution of a person’s estate in the event they die without a will. There are specific distribution directions based on whether the decedent had a spouse or children. When a single person dies intestate, the estate is passed to the parents if they are living. If only one parent is living and the decedent has siblings or other decedents such as nieces or nephews, the estate is divided between them and the living parent.
In the case of a person who is unmarried but has children, the estate passes to the descendants. This may include children as well as others with a family relationship, such as grandchildren. The distribution would be determined by the degree of the relationship. When a married person dies intestate, the spouse will generally inherit community property.
Who Can Contest the Estate?
The rules of inheritance when a person dies without a will are complex. Anyone with standing can contest the estate, even if there is no will. However, they must generally contest it within two years.
Everyone should realize that they need a will in order to ensure that their estate is properly distributed after their death. Without a will, your estate will be distributed according to the law and this may not be in accordance with your wishes. In addition, without a will, the law does not allow for someone who is not related to inherit anything. In some cases, a person’s estate could go to the state.
There are a number of relatives who may be allowed to contest an estate. This may include the spouse, children, illegitimate children, parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and other members of the family. Although you may be allowed to contest the estate, it does not mean that you will be successful in obtaining any of the inheritance. An experienced Texas probate and attorney will review your situation and help determine how to proceed. Contact Michael P. Fleming & Associates, P.C. for a free case evaluation today 713-221-6800.