In Texas, a person can disclaim property from an inheritance or an estate at any point after the decedent’s death. There is no time limit to making such a disclaimer.
A disclaimer of an interest created by a will or through the Texas intestacy statutes must be in writing, clearly disclaim the interest in or power over the property and sufficiently describe the interest or power disclaimed.
Further, the person making the disclaimer must sign the document and deliver it to the personal representative or executor of the estate. If such an individual has not been appointed, the person must file the disclaimer with the county clerk.
Length of Time to Disclaim
The answer to the question, “How long do you have to disclaim an inheritance in Texas?” is there is no time limit. The Texas Uniform Disclaimer of Property Interests Act, found in the Texas Property Code, does not hold a disclaimant to a deadline.
This law took effect on September 1, 2015. Previously, the law set out a nine-month time limit for disclaimed property. This meant a disclaimant had nine months from the date of the death of the decedent (person who died and passed on the property) to disclaim the property.
Reasons to Disclaim Probate Property
Reasons for disclaiming an inheritance in Texas include that the person set to receive the property:
- Does not want the property. This could be because the property has numerous concerns, like liens, restrictions on its use or a dangerous feature such as a polluted creek.
- Cannot afford to pay the local property taxes.
- Cannot obtain or afford an insurance policy on the property.
- Wants their descendants to inherit the real estate or property.
When a person disclaims property, it passes as if the disclaimant predeceased the decedent. The property goes straight from the decedent to the disclaimant’s heirs. A disclaimant cannot designate a person to receive the property that they disclaimed.
No Gift Tax Liability on Inherited Property
Texas does not have inheritance or estate taxes. The state repealed the inheritance tax effective September 1, 2015. There is a federal estate tax set by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), required for an individual estate that exceeded $12.92 million in 2023.
Who Inherits Property After Death?
If a decedent left a will, the parties named in the will receive the property after court approval in accordance with the Texas Estates Code, also known as “Texas probate code,” “Texas estate laws,” “Texas beneficiary laws” or “Texas will laws.”
If the will is invalid, the property passes as if there were no will, according to the intestate inheritance laws found in the Texas Estates Code. Heirship property rights are the property rights of members of the decedent’s family.
Distribution Upon Intestacy Under Texas Law
If the decedent dies intestate (without a will) but has a surviving spouse, the distribution of the property depends on whether the decedent had children. If the decedent had one or more children or a descendant of a child (a grandchild), the surviving spouse takes one-third of the personal estate.
The personal estate is all of the decedent’s personal property like money, vehicles and belongings, but not the decedent’s real property, like land.
Distribution to Children and Surviving Spouse
Two-thirds of the decedent’s personal estate goes to the decedent’s child or children or the descendants of a child or children. The surviving spouse is entitled to a life estate on one-third of the decedent’s land. This means they can remain on the decedent’s real property until they (surviving spouse) die. The remainder interest in the real property descends, or passes, to the decedent’s child or children or descendants of a child or children.
If the decedent had no children and no descendant of a child, the surviving spouse is entitled to all of the decedent’s personal estate. The surviving spouse is entitled to one-half of the decedent’s land without a remainder to any person.
The other one-half of the decedent’s land passes and is inherited according to the rules of descent and distribution. If the decedent did not leave a surviving parent or one or more surviving siblings or their descendants, the surviving spouse is entitled to the entire estate.
Distribution Without a Spouse
If the decedent did not have a surviving spouse, the estate descends to their close family members. If the decedent had children, the estate will pass to their children and the children’s descendants. If no child or child’s descendant survives the decedent, the decedent’s estate passes in equal portions to the decedent’s mother and father.
If the decedent’s father survives the decedent, the decedent’s estate will be divided into two equal portions. One portion passes to the surviving parent; the other passes to the decedent’s siblings and the siblings’ descendants.
The surviving parent can inherit the entire portion if the decedent had no sibling or siblings’ descendants. If neither the mother or father survives the decedent, the decedent’s entire estate passes to the decedent’s siblings and siblings’ descendants. If none of these situations apply, the individual who believes they are entitled to property should consult the Texas Estates Code Chapter 201, which discusses intestate succession.
Inherited Property Is Separate Property Under State Law
Community property is property that is jointly owned by a married couple. Separate property is property that belongs solely to one spouse. Inherited property in Texas is considered separate property.
When a decedent dies and leaves money, other personal property or real property to a beneficiary (person who takes under a will or policy) or an heir, the beneficiary or heir’s spouse is not entitled to any portion of the property. This is true whether the property was distributed to the beneficiary or heir before, during or after the beneficiary or heir got married.
Spousal Improvements to Inherited Property
If the beneficiary or heir’s spouse makes an improvement upon inherited money, personal property or real property during the marriage, the spouse could successfully argue that they are entitled to the value of the improvement. For example, say a beneficiary inherited a condo from a deceased uncle.
The beneficiary’s spouse then remodeled the deck of the condo. If the spouse used the money they or the beneficiary or heir earned during the marriage to remodel the deck, the spouse would be entitled to one half of the value of the remodeled deck. This is because money earned during the marriage is community property.
If the spouse used their own money (separate property) earned before the marriage to remodel the deck, the spouse could successfully argue they were entitled to all of the value of the remodeled deck.
- Texas Property Code: Title 13 Disclaimer of Property Interests, Chapter 240 Texas Uniform Disclaimer of Property Interests Act
- Texas Estates Code: Title 2 Estates of Decedents, Durable Powers of Attorney, Chapter 122 Disclaimers and Assignments
- U.S. Internal Revenue Service: Estate tax
- Texas Estates Code: Title 2 Estates of Decedents, Durable Powers of Attorney, Chapter 201 Descent and Distribution
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.