Houston, TX asked in Contracts, Employment Law, Estate Planning and Probate for Texas

Q: Is this true when a widow and late Husband has no children, everything goes to widow in Texas.

My late husband and I had no children, I was told that his employer is plan administrator, trustee, and fiduciary of my late Husband's estate. I have w2's and copies of tax statements, showing my late husband has a retirement plan, differed compensation, and a pension. According to Department of Labor my late husband had no pension, if this is the case why did PBGC give me the case number, plan number and my late husband's EIN. Also according to PBGC Representative, first told me it was being paid to my husbands employer, can this be true? I have the hardest time, I have written letters, made phone calls but I am told there is no information on my husband, HR informed me employees information goes back to 1987, my husband died in 2010, why would the largest Industrial private Company In the world treat a 69 year old widow of their lead inventor who manage to get 52 utility patents in 14 years treat his widow this way. Could this be Elder abuse, just wondering, it is very hurtful

1 Lawyer Answer
John Michael Frick
John Michael Frick
  • Frisco, TX
  • Licensed in Texas

A: Not entirely.

If a Husband dies without a Will and with no surviving issue (children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc.), 100% of the community property in his probate estate and 50% of his separate property in his probate estate passes to his surviving widow. The remaining 50% of his separate property in his probate estate passes to his parents if they are both alive; if only one is alive, 25% of his separate property in his probate estate passes to his surviving parent and 25% passes to his surviving siblings; etc. Of course, if your Husband had a Will, his probate estate passes to the heirs as designated in his Will. Having a Will is always the recommended approach given how inexpensive obtaining a Will is.

Retirement plans, bank accounts, annuity plans, pensions, etc. typically do not flow into a decedent's probate estate at all. Typically, they pass to the named beneficiary on the particular plan or account. If, for some reason, the decedent did not designate a beneficiary, these types of assets can only be paid to the personal representative of the decedent's estate duly appointed by the probate court in which the decedent's estate is being probated. If, for some bizarre reason, neither the widow nor any of the decedent's other living heirs files a probate proceeding to probate the decedent's estate, the institution holding such funds cannot legally pay out whatever is being held to anyone.

Texas provides a relatively long period of time after a decedent dies to begin a probate proceeding: four years. Since your husband died 14 years ago, it is now too late to begin a probate proceeding unless there is some legitimate reason to toll the four year statute of limitations. So hopefully there was a probate proceeding and you can check with the personal representative appointed by the probate court.

I'm speculating here that your husband died in 2010 and you did not file to probate his estate. If that happened, that is not any type of elder abuse.

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