Does a Spouse Inherit if the Other Spouse Dies Intestate Without a Will

Does a Spouse Inherit if the Other Spouse Dies Intestate Without a Will

Texas Law

Does a spouse inherit if the other spouse dies intestate without a will? That simple question cannot be answered with a simple answer. It can’t be answered simply because there are so many factors:

  • Are there children and are they children of both parents? See here, and here.
  • What kind of property is involved? See here.

Texas recognizes common-law marriages or what Texas refers to as” informal” marriages. How does that affect inheritance rights. See here and here.

Because these issues are complicated, you need to discuss your rights with an attorney who understands inheritance laws.

DOES “SPOUSE” MEAN CURRENT SPOUSE?

Problems with terms like “spouse,” “children,” “heirs…”

In an interesting case from 2020, 04-20-00035-CV, a woman created a trust. The trust named her son’s “spouse” as a beneficiary. The son later divorced and remarried. The question before the court was whether the beneficiary designation of “spouse” meant the prior spouse or the current spouse.

The court ruled in favor of the spouse at the time the trust was created…

(W)e hold that the grantor’s use of the term “spouse” referred to William’s spouse at the time the Trust was executed, and did not refer to a class of persons including future spouses.

There is a section of the Texas Estates Code that provides that any provision in a will or trust in favor of a person’s spouse is void if they later divorce. However, the woman in this case was not leaving something to her spouse but to the spouse of her son. The court did not discuss this section of the Texas Estates Code so I would assume that all parties agreed that it didn’t apply.

Insight

Is the result the court reached the result that the woman who created the trust wanted? Probably, but maybe not. To avoid problems like this, it is better to specify who you’re leaving your property to rather than use terms that may cause confusion like “spouse.” “children,” “heirs…”

Spouses

Does a spouse inherit in Texas

Spousal Rights to Inherit in Texas

Does a surviving spouse inherit everything when their spouse dies?

Does a spouse inherit over children from a previous marriage?

I have updated the page on my main website about a spouse’s right of inheritance. View it here –

Spouses

Texas Requirements For A Common Law Marriage

Texas Requirements For A Common Law Marriage

Texas Common-law Marriage

Texas recognizes common-law marriages or what Texas calls “Informal Marriages.” There are two different ways you can have an informal marriage:

  1. Agreeing to be married; living together in Texas after the agreement; and, representing to others that you are married; or,
  2. Signing a “Declaration of Marriage.

A person who claims a common law marriage must prove it. A proceeding to prove the informal marriage has a statute of limitations. The proceeding must be filed within certain time limits after the date of death of one of the spouses or within the time limits after the date the parties ceased living together as husband and wife. If a proceeding is not commenced within the statute of limitations, there is a rebuttable presumption that the parties did not have a common-law marriage. FC 2.401.

Once proven, a common-law spouse is treated the same as any other spouse in Texas.

In a 2019 case, a Declaration of Marriage was filed in 2015 saying that the parties had been married since 2010. If they were married in 2010, it would be too late to contest the marriage. If they were married in 2015, the man’s children could contest the marriage. The court ruled that there was no evidence that the parties held themselves out as husband and wife (representing to others that you are married) before 2015. The children contested the marriage of 2015 saying that he was not mentally competent to marry. The jury agreed with the children that he was not mentally competent. 13-17-00431-CV.

Definition of Putative Spouse in Texas

Definition of Putative Spouse in Texas

Putative Spouse in Texas

putative spouse is one who has a good faith belief that he or she is married but who is not legally married. An example will give a clearer picture.

A man and a woman get married either through a formal marriage or an informal, or common-law, marriage. They live together for some time and accumulate property. One of them dies and the surviving spouse finds out after the death that the deceased spouse was previously married to someone else but never got a divorce. Because the deceased spouse was never divorced from his first spouse, the marriage to the second spouse is not valid. However, because the second spouse had a good faith belief that he or she was married, the second or putative spouse has rights to property that are similar to a spouse’s rights to property in a valid marriage.

Can you have a secret common-law marriage in Texas

Can you have a secret common-law marriage in Texas

Texas Law

Texas recognizes common-law marriages or what Texas refers to as” informal” marriages. An informal marriage may be proved in one of two ways. The first way is to introduce a declaration of informal marriage that has been filed with the County clerk. If there is no declaration of marriage, a common-law marriage may be proved by showing: (1) agreement to be married; (2) after the agreement, living together in Texas as husband and wife; and (3) representing to others in Texas that they were married. FC §2.401. The statutory requirement of “represented to others” is synonymous with the judicial requirement of “holding out to the public.” Both of these methods of proving an informal marriage depend upon the marriage being open and obvious to anyone who bothers to look.

Can you have a secret common-law marriage in Texas

What happens in those circumstances when the informal marriage is kept secret from a few are many people? The courts have held that a marriage that was secret from only a few members of the couple’s family was a common-law marriage because the marriage was widely known in the community. 734 S.W.2d 27. On the other hand, courts have denied a common law marriage when the marriage was known to only a few. 333 S.W.2d 361. In other words, the cohabitation must be professed as husband and wife, and public, so that by their conduct towards each other they may be known as husband and wife.

Update: In a 2019 case, a Declaration of Marriage was filed in 2015 saying that the parties had been married since 2010. If they were married in 2010, it would be too late to contest the marriage. If they were married in 2015, the man’s children could contest the marriage. The court ruled that there was no evidence that the parties held themselves out as husband and wife (representing to others that you are married) before 2015, so there was no marriage before 2015. The children contested the marriage of 2015 saying that he was not mentally competent to marry. The jury agreed with the children that he was not mentally competent. 13-17-00431-CV.

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