It is important for everyone to have a will, but it is especially important if you are a part of a blended family. What is a blended family? A blended family consists of a marriage between spouses who had children from a previous relationship. Without a will, assets are distributed according to Texas law, which may not be the way you intend your assets to be distributed.
How assets are distributed will depend on whether property is considered community or separate property. According to Texas law, community property is all property acquired by either the husband or wife or both during the course of the marriage, other than separate property. Separate property in Texas includes property that was owned or claimed before the marriage and certain types of property acquired during the marriage such as gifts and inheritance, monetary recoveries for personal injuries.
When a married person dies without a will, and has children from a previous relationship, the surviving spouse will only be entitled to keep their ½ interest in the community estate. The deceased’s share of the community estate will pass to their children in equal shares.
For separate personal property, only 1/3 of the deceased’s separate personal property will pass to the surviving spouse while the remaining 2/3 passes to the deceased’s children. If the deceased passed leaving separate real property, the surviving spouse is entitled to a life estate in 1/3 of that property. The deceased’s children inherit the separate real property outright in equal shares.
Let’s assume Bill and Sally have been married for 25 years and have 2 children of their own. Bill also has 3 children from a previous marriage. Bill dies owning (1) a house he owned before meeting Sally; (2) the home that he and Sally bought once they were married and lived in since then; (3) stocks worth $200,000.00 that he and Sally contributed to as part of their retirement plan.
Asset (1), the house he owned before meeting Sally, is separate property. Because it is separate real property, this house will be inherited by Bill’s 5 children in equal shares instead of Sally. Sally will have a 1/3 life interest in the property, but will not have unlimited access.
Asset (2), the home he purchased and lived in with Sally, is community property. Yet, because Bill has 3 children from a previous marriage, Sally will not inherit this home alone. She will be able to live in the house until she dies, but Bill’s 5 children inherit his half of the home in equal shares.
Asset (3), the stocks, is community property. Sally will retain $100,000.00, but the other $100,000.00 will be split equally between Bill’s 5 children.
Texas laws when one dies without a will are rigid and inflexible and do not take into account these types of unique circumstances. If you are a part of a blended family and want to be in control of how your assets are distributed when you die, you need a Will. Contact us today if we can help.