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What Happens if Your Spouse Dies During Divorce in Texas [2023]

What Happens if Your Spouse Dies During Divorce in Texas?

When a spouse dies during divorce proceedings in Texas, the divorce process is halted, and the case is typically dismissed. In such a scenario, the surviving spouse is considered a widow or widower, and the marriage is deemed legally valid until the moment of the deceased spouse’s death. Consequently, the deceased spouse’s estate will be subject to Texas probate law, which governs how property and assets are distributed after death.

In this article, the family law attorneys at Varghese Summersett explain what happens if your spouse dies during the divorce process in Texas. It’s important to point out that Varghese Summesett Family Law Group does not handle probate matters, but can provide general information on property division, child support and child custody in the wake of a spouse’s death during the divorce process.

death during the divorce process

Property Division and the Deceased Spouse’s Estate

In Texas, property acquired during the marriage is classified as community property, which means it is owned equally by both spouses. If a spouse dies before the divorce is finalized, the community property will be divided according to Texas probate law, regardless of what the divorce agreement might have stipulated.

For example, under Texas Estates Code § 201.002, if the deceased spouse dies without a will and has no children, the surviving spouse inherits the entire community estate. However, if the deceased spouse has children, the surviving spouse is entitled to half of the community property, while the other half is distributed among the children.

Child Custody and Support in the Wake of a Spouse’s Death During Divorce

Child Custody Arrangements

If a spouse dies during divorce in Texas, any child custody arrangements previously established no longer apply. The surviving spouse typically becomes the sole managing conservator of the children, assuming full legal and physical custody. In some cases, the deceased spouse’s family may petition the court for visitation rights or joint managing conservatorship, but the court will ultimately decide based on the best interests of the child.

Child Support Obligations

Child support obligations of the deceased spouse may be enforced against their estate, ensuring that the surviving spouse and children receive the financial support they need. The court will consider factors such as the deceased spouse’s income, the needs of the child, and the financial resources of the surviving spouse when determining child support payments from the estate.

Life Insurance and Retirement Benefits After a Spouse’s Death During Divorce

The surviving spouse may be entitled to claim life insurance benefits or retirement accounts, depending on the terms of the policy or account and the stage of the divorce proceedings. It’s crucial to review and update beneficiary designations on such accounts to ensure the intended beneficiaries receive the proceeds.

Death During Divorce

Spousal Support and the Impact of a Spouse’s Death

In cases where the deceased spouse was ordered to pay spousal support, the surviving spouse may have a claim against the estate for the unpaid support.  The amount and duration of the support will be determined by the court and depend on factors such as the length of the marriage, the financial resources of both spouses, and the needs of the surviving spouse.

Wills and Estate Planning During Divorce

When going through a divorce, it’s essential to update your will and estate planning documents to reflect your wishes regarding property distribution, guardianship of your children, and the appointment of an executor. Failing to update your will may result in unintended consequences if your spouse dies during divorce proceedings or if you die before the divorce is final.

How the Death of a Spouse Affects Wills and Trusts

If your spouse dies during divorce in Texas and their will has not been updated, the surviving spouse may still inherit according to the terms of the will. However, if the deceased spouse had created a trust, the trust’s terms would dictate the distribution of assets, which may differ from the will’s provisions.

Death During Divorce

If your spouse dies during divorce in Texas, the legal complexities demand prompt, expert legal guidance. Navigating the legal challenges that could arise can be overwhelming. Our experienced family law attorneys can help you understand the implications of your spouse’s death on property division, child custody, support, and other critical matters. Call 817-900-3220 or online to discuss your case with experienced attorneys.

FAQs: What Happens if Your Spouse Died During Divorce in Texas?

What happens if a spouse died during divorce in Texas?

If a spouse died during divorce proceedings in Texas, the divorce process is halted, and the case is usually dismissed. The surviving spouse becomes a widow or widower, and the marriage is considered legally valid up until the deceased spouse’s death.

How is property divided if a spouse dies before the divorce is finalized?

If a spouse dies before the divorce is finalized, the community property will be divided according to Texas probate law, rather than the divorce agreement. The surviving spouse’s inheritance depends on factors such as whether the deceased spouse left a will and if they had children.

What happens to child custody arrangements if a spouse died during divorce?

Previously established child custody arrangements no longer apply if a spouse died during divorce. The surviving spouse typically becomes the sole managing conservator of the children, assuming full legal and physical custody. In some cases, the deceased spouse’s family may petition the court for visitation rights or joint managing conservatorship.

Can the surviving spouse claim child support from the deceased spouse’s estate?

Yes, the court may enforce child support obligations of the deceased spouse against their estate. The court will determine the child support payments based on factors such as the deceased spouse’s income, the needs of the child, and the financial resources of the surviving spouse.

Is the surviving spouse entitled to life insurance and retirement benefits of the deceased spouse?

The surviving spouse may be entitled to claim life insurance benefits or retirement accounts, depending on the terms of the policy or account and the stage of the divorce proceedings. It’s crucial to review and update beneficiary designations on such accounts to ensure the intended beneficiaries receive the proceeds.

Can the surviving spouse claim spousal support from the deceased spouse’s estate?

If the deceased spouse was ordered to pay spousal support, the surviving spouse may have a claim against the estate for unpaid support. The court will determine the amount and duration of the support based on factors such as the length of the marriage, the financial resources of both spouses, and the needs of the surviving spouse.

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