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My wife of 5 years will leave her house and her life insurance to her children. I help with property taxes and utilities. Do I have rights?

By on January 24, 2022 0

Dear Quentin,

My wife, 72, and I have been married for five years.

I moved into his house, which is paid for, and we shared the expenses, the food and the taxes. She has her car and I have my truck. We live in Texas and she has a will that leaves her house, life insurance, car and possessions to her 4 daughters.

We are legally married and all of our assets are repaid. What happens to the possession of the house, car and household items if she passes before me? Neither of us is as healthy. I am four years younger than my wife.

Do I have any rights here?

Younger man

Dear young,

You are entitled to everything you brought into this marriage and everything you bought during your marriage. Texas is a community property state, so anything you or your wife bought before you got married is considered separate property.

The surviving spouse in Texas has the right to occupy the homestead for the rest of their life, even if it is separate property or a gift to a third party, per Texas State Bar. When you die, his children would take possession of the property.

Ownership is a different matter. You have paid utilities and property taxes. In some states, contributing to the upkeep of the property can blend this asset, turning it from separate property to matrimonial property. Laws vary by state.

“In Texas, community funds that are used to maintain, improve, or pay the expenses of a separate spousal property do not give the community any ownership rights in that asset,” warns Warren and Migliaccioa Texas law firm.

The surviving spouse in Texas has the right to occupy the homestead for the rest of their life, even if it is separate property or a gift to a third party.

Same, divorce. It remains his property. “But the other spouse can be reimbursed for their contributions to the equity in the home or improvements that increased the value of the home,” explains Powers and Kerra law firm in Austin.

Personal property is different. “If you both bring furniture and household items into the marriage and use them interchangeably regardless of ownership, those items have likely become community property,” says Warren & Migliaccio.

“What about engagements and wedding rings? Often these items can have substantial value. Generally speaking, anything your spouse gives you is your separate property even if it was purchased with community money,” the firm adds.

Five years or even 15 years of marriage does not give you the right to separate property after the death of your wife. She also made sure to have a will, ensuring that her children received their inheritance, so the state’s intestate law won’t apply here.

(If she died without a will in Texas, her wife would receive 50% of the joint property and one-third of the separate property. The rest would go to her four children. You would have the right to live in the property for the rest of your life.)

And now? You don’t have to pay rent. Believe me, that’s not always the case. This man pays his wife $2,000 a month (reluctantly). Financial independence is one of the most empowering things you can bring to a marriage.

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