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Intestate Estates

What does intestate mean in Texas?

According to Merriam-Webster, intestate is defined as an adjective: having made no valid will. And as a noun: one who dies intestate. Rather simple, right? Well the process that follows can be far from simple.

Intestate succession laws determine who inherits property of a deceased person that did not leave a will. If this is the case, they are automatically entered into the state’s intestacy probate process. Each state controls the functioning of this process through the intestacy succession laws found in the Texas Probate Code, Title 2, Subtitle E, Chapter 201. This law will dictate the dispersal of the deceased person’s probate estate.

The Intestate Estate Process

During a probate process, the beneficiaries must demonstrate to a court that the distribution of property is fair and honest. Any property that was owned by the decedent at the time of their death as well as debts or bills they owed become part of the probate. The outstanding debt will be subtracted from the total amount of properties and then the remaining balance is separated according to law. The average cost of probate can vary drastically. It can take up to two years for the entire process to complete.

The distribution of property upon death, once heirship (title) is determined, is according to the Laws of Descent and Distribution, found in Tex. Est. Code §§ 201.001 to 201.152. The actual application of the law is best performed by examining the facts of the decedent’s family history and comparing it to those persons surviving.

The statutes in force at the time of death govern the disposition of the decedent’s estate and determine the persons entitled to share in the estate

Unaffected Assets

Many valuable assets don’t go through your will and aren’t affected by intestate succession laws. We have included some examples below:

  • life insurance proceeds
  • payable-on-death bank accounts
  • property you own with someone else in joint tenancy
  • funds in an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement account
  • property you’ve transferred to a living trust

These assets will pass to the beneficiary you named or to the surviving co-owner, whether or not you have a will.

Texas Intestate Distribution

Under intestate succession, the distribution of the estate depends on whether or not you have parents, living children or other close relatives when you die. We took the time to create an infographic to help navigate your current situation:

Texas Intestacy Chart
Texas Intestacy Chart

Higher quality Texas intestacy chart PDF.


We are experienced probate attorneys who frequently represent clients with sensitive probate matters in the DFW area. Do you need help with an intestate estate matter in Dallas or the surrounding communities? 

Alternatively, you can always give us a call us at (469) 895-4333.