This afternoon, Judge Guy Herman of Probate Court No. 1 in Travis County, Texas, ruled that the ban on same sex marriages in Texas is unconstitutional.  The Decedent in the case before Judge Herman had no will or estate planning in place, so her estate was left to her heirs at law.

Determining the Decedent’s heirs is where the battle has focused.  The Decedent’s partner, whom she married years ago in a ceremony not recognized by Texas law, has been placed in the difficult position of arguing for her spousal rights granted to surviving spouses under Texas law.  In this case, the surviving partner has sought her share in the Decedent’s estate as Decedent’s common law surviving spouse.

This is relatively uncharted territory for Texas probate courts and would be the first time a same sex partner could be afforded the rights of a surviving spouse under Texas law.  Read more about this interesting story and the court battle that has led this this ruling in the Austin American Statesman here.

Protect Your Partner

For same sex partners looking to avoid a long, drawn out and public court battle such as this, proper estate planning is crucial.  A valid last will and testament should clearly define your beneficiaries and the gifts to them and can help prevent contests such as the one Judge Herman presided over today.   A revocable living trust is another option for those seeking privacy and to avoid court proceedings entirely.