What is it for?
Unless there is a small estate affidavit filed, after the inventory is presented to the court, the judge can determine a family allowance for the support of the surviving spouse and the minor children. You can find out more, here: http://law.onecle.com/texas/probate/286.00.html
It would appear that the amount can vary depending on the circumstances.
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Estate Planning Attorney
In Texas, a surviving spouse can claim an amount equal to what would be required for one year of support for the surviving spouse and any minor or disabled children. In an independent administration, the amount does not have to be set by a judge. The executor can set the amount.
When determining the amount, community property and non-probate assets like life insurance and retirement accounts are not considered. The only thing that would be considered would be whether the survivor had enough separate property on the date of death to support him or herself.
The family allowance comes out of the decedents estate. Discuss this with your attorney since this can be a sticky subject if the family allowance will reduce the amount distributed to other heirs, or if the family allowance is being used to deny creditor claims. You want to make sure that the amount you claimed as a protected family allowance is reasonable based on your actual living expenses for 1 year from the date of death. You also want to make sure you correctly calculate the offset for any separate property you owned on the date of your spouse's death.
There are various rights of a surviving spouse, including the right to remain in the homestead. One option is an "allowance in lieu of exempt property" which provides a maximum of $15,000 if there is not homestead and $5,000 if there isn't other exempt property. So, there is a discretionary allowance for support (section 286), homestead rights, or an allowance instead of homestead. It isn't that simple and since elections need to be made, I strongly urge you to consult an attorney.
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