The Basics of Estate Proceedings in Texas and the United States for Non-U.S. Residents By Emily T. Vanover, Urban Thier & Federer, P.A. If you are a non-U.S. relative of a person who passed away in the U.S., or if you are the heir to property owned in the U.S. by a deceased family member, you may become involved in estate proceedings in the U.S. The probate systems in Texas and the other U.S. states differ from the probate systems in Germany or the United Kingdom.
The Basics of Probate and Estate Proceedings in Texas and the United States
1. In Texas, when someone dies with a will, it must be proven valid in court. This is the process of “probate.” To be valid, a will must meet the “requirements of execution” in that it must 1) have been executed with testamentary intent, (2) the testator must have had testamentary capacity, (3) the will must have been executed free of fraud, duress, undue influence or mistake, and (4) the will must have been duly executed through proper formalities. Further, the will must not have been canceled or revoked when its maker was still alive.
2. If the validity of a will cannot be proven, it is “denied probate.” If this happens, the decedent’s property may pass to his or her heirs as though there was no will. This is the process of “intestacy.” The ways in which a decedent’s property will be passed through intestacy are complex and varied based on state law. Under intestacy, for example, if a person dies leaving behind children but no spouse, parents, or siblings, all of the deceased’s property will go to the children. If one dies leaving behind a spouse but no children, parents, or siblings, his or her spouse will inherit everything under intestacy. These simple examples are complicated if one leaves behind, for example, a spouse and children, and the property is classified as either separate or community.
3. Texas is a “community property” state, where property is either classified as separate or community, with various rights attaching to the property depending on the classification, which affect post-death distribution. When and how property is acquired during marriage affects how that property is distributed after one’s death, For example, if a German citizen married a U.S. national and then bought a house in Texas after marriage, this house will likely be considered “community property,” and not capable of being passed by a will at the request of one spouse. If the German citizen later dies, this classification as “community property” will determine how the house is handed down upon the German citizen’s death. If you are the child, parent, or sibling of a deceased non-U.S. individual in a similar situation, you may be entitled to some or all of the deceased’s assets depending on the classification of those assets as community or separate.
Please contact us if you need help with estate and probate proceedings. We can guide you through the process in Florida, Texas, New York and other U.S. states, and also assist with the issue of U.S. and international estate and inheritance taxation. Please note that Urban Thier & Federer, P.A. does not represent you and cannot take any action on your behalf unless and until you enter into a formal written Legal Representation Agreement.