Can a wife be left with nothing but a life estate if not mentioned in a Will?

UPDATED: Jul 22, 2011

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Can a wife be left with nothing but a life estate if not mentioned in a Will?

My husband of 18 yrs passed away recently. He was previously married, wife died, had a Will that left everything to his 3 children. We married and bought property that we owned jointly. Now I am being told that since he had not revoked the prior Will, that the property would go to his children and I would have a life estate. If I am the joint property owner, how can he will all of the property to his children through the first Will? What is a life estate and how does it apply to me as the surviving spouse? Should I speak with a probate attorney? In Hood County, TX.

Asked on July 22, 2011 Texas


M.T.G., Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 11 years ago | Contributor

I am so sorry for your loss.  Please, please, please see a probate attorney in your area and bring a copy of his Will with you.  Whotold you that you only ge t a life estate in jointly held property?  His kids?  Property held jointly as husband and wife is generally held with "rights of survivorship" meaning that it passes to you automatically upon the death of your husband and does NOT pass through probate.  Even if it were not held that way - and I highly doubt it - you do not give up your half of the ownership rights upon his death.  FYI a life estate is a right to remain on land until you pass away but there are no ownership rights associated with it.  You have ownership rights.  Get help.  Good luck.

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