The sad fact is that most people in Texas do not have a will in place when they die. Without a will or other estate planning instrument, many of those estates are left to the mercy of probate court. The court will typically distribute the assets based on next-of-kin inheritance rights, known as the laws of intestacy, which may be slightly different in every state. In some situations, the next-of-kin is easy to identify since they are generally those who are most closely related by blood. However, other families may have more complex configurations.
When someone dies and leaves behind a spouse or children, probate matters may be simple to decide. However, it is not always so easy, especially when divorce, remarriage and blended families are involved. State laws establish a succession of inheritance, including grandchildren, parents, siblings, nephews and nieces when the deceased has no immediate family or dies without a will.
This means that those who are not next of kin by state law may have no claim to an inheritance, even one the deceased may have promised while alive. The exceptions to this include stipulations in a validly executed will, prenuptial agreement or other legal contract. In lieu of those legal arrangements, the next of kin likely inherits whatever assets remain in the estate, potentially including digital assets and, in some cases, debts.
When a loved one dies without a spouse or children and leaves no will, determining next of kin may be a complex matter. In some cases, the Texas probate process may require skilled legal assistance. If much is at stake, it may be worth learning the most appropriate steps to take.