When people die without a will, the laws of intestacy will generally determine who inherits their estate, and in most cases the recipients are the decedent’s next of kin. The phrase is generally understood, but when it comes to the law, specifics count, and a more definitive understanding is required. Furthermore, the class of people may vary from state to state, and that is why it is so important to understand just what next of kin means in the state of Texas.
The exact definition
From a legal perspective, “next of kin” usually means the closest living blood relative. From an inheritance perspective, this matters in many jurisdictions because a person who dies without a will and has no surviving children or spouse will typically have their estate go to their closest next of kin as defined by the law. Texas probate law will govern in this situation, and it sets forth in some detail who will be entitled to receive distributions from the estate and in which order. This can of course be avoided if the decedent left a valid will or had other estate planning documents such as a trust or beneficiary designations, but that is not always the case. Here is more information on what happens to the property of a decedent who dies intestate.
The order of next of kin in Texas
In Texas, the order is as follows:
• Surviving spouse
• Children’s descendants
• Descendants of siblings
• Kin of parents
While the statute is quite clear as to who is entitled to receive distributions, this does not mean that the process will always go smoothly. If you are a potential heir and wish to learn more about how you might be affected, you might want to discuss your situation with an attorney who has experience in these matters.