In some cases, when an individual dies without a will in Texas, distributing the estate can be costly and burdensome. However, there are also many simple estate administration alternatives available when there is no will.
Texas probate lawyer Isaac Shutt can evaluate your particular situation to see which probate alternative is best for you. Contact the attorney to find out the easiest and most affordable legal option available.
Here are some of the most common alternatives to traditional probate when the decedent died without a Will in Texas:
The Small Estate Administration in Texas, often called the “Small Estate Affidavit,” is a process that avoids formal probate of a Will but still requires a probate filing in the probate court. Within 30 days of the decedent’s death, an heir must file the small estate affidavit with the probate court clerk. After the court approves the affidavit and files it, the affidavit can be used to disperse assets to heirs, transfer property, and pay bills.
Even though this process is more efficient than probate, heirs must still properly execute the affidavit and file the affidavit in probate court, and the estate must be eligible for the small estate administration process.
As the name would imply, to be eligible, the estate must be… small. The Texas Probate Code states that an estate is small enough for this process if the value of the estate assets equals $50,000 or less, not including the homestead property.
For more on this process, consult the Texas Probate Code §§137 and 138, or contact a probate attorney.
This is only available when there was no will and when the decedent only left behind real estate. Here, instead of going to probate court, the heirs need only fill out the Affidavit of Heirship form and file it with the county clerk of the county in which the property exists. The form can be found at §52A of the Texas Probate Code.
Of course, the affidavit must be executed with the appropriate formalities in order to be valid. For example, two “disinterested” witnesses must swear to a specific oath as required by the Probate Code.
This process is only available when the decedent died with no Will. At the outset, note that this probate alternative process can be both expensive and lengthy. The process requires at least one hearing in front of the probate court judge.
Basically, a party will file an application with the probate court to start the process. Then, the court will hire an independent attorney to essentially track down and represent any unknown heirs. After the independent attorney conducts the investigation, the court will require a hearing at which two disinterested witnesses must testify as to the information in the application.
The pro to this process is that when it’s complete, the court’s declaration will give some finality as to who is entitled to a share of the decedent’s estate. The biggest con, as mentioned, is that the process can be costly and time-consuming.