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Estate Planning

Texas Surviving Spouse Rights

Texas Homestead Law Surviving Spouse

Inheritance complications are likely to emerge when a spouse in a blended family dies without a Will and is survived by a spouse and children from a previous marriage. This is very likely if the surviving spouse does not get along with the step-children. Of course the law says that the surviving spouse is entitled to half of the community estate in this situation while the decedent’s half of the community estate goes to the children of the deceased spouse. The surviving spouse is only entitled to one third of the deceased spouse’s separate property. Talk to an estate planning lawyer if you want detailed information of what exactly you are supposed to inherit in such a situation.

How A Property Becomes A Homestead In Texas

You do not need to go through a formalized legal process or file a document to create a homestead in Texas. You create a homestead based on how you use the land and whether you claim that land as a permanent residence. However, you must occupy the property for it to be considered a homestead. But just occupying land and using it does not automatically make that land a homestead. An experienced Texas estate planning lawyer can answer all your questions about what qualifies as a homestead and what does not.

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What Happens To The Homestead Property?

Texas Surviving Spouse RightsHomestead property can be urban or rural property. A home or a place of business can be considered as urban homestead and is limited to 10 acres with improvements (must be in adjacent lots).A homestead is considered urban if it is (1) located within the limits of a municipality or its extraterritorial jurisdiction or a platted subdivision; and (2) served by police protection, paid or volunteer fire protection, and at least three of the following services provided by a municipality or under contract to a municipality:

  • electric;
  • natural gas;
  • sewer;
  • storm sewer;  and
  • water

A rural homestead is not more than 200 acres for a family with improvements and 100 acres for a single person with improvements thereon. If the homestead property where the surviving spouse lives was the deceased’s separate property, the step-children cannot force the surviving spouse to sell.

What that means is that the surviving spouse cannot be forced to sell as long as the surviving spouse is using and occupying the homestead property. The only way the property heirs can take over the property is if they can show that the surviving spouse abandoned the property. But it is difficult to prove abandonment because a surviving spouse can retain a life estate even if the spouse moves out and rents out the property to someone else.

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Reimbursement To The Surviving Spouse

If the deceased owned separate property and the both the deceased and the surviving spouse contributed financially to that property during the marriage, the surviving spouse is entitled to reimbursement. For example, if the deceased bought a home prior to the marriage, and during the marriage both spouses had contributed financially to that property, the surviving spouse will be entitled to reimbursement for the financial contributions the surviving spouse made to the property.

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