When you’re grieving, it is often a difficult time to figure out what to do about your loved one’s property. At the Crane Law Firm, we can help. We do our best to support you during this difficult season by helping you carry out the desires of your loved one for their assets if they left a will or to assist the heirs receive what Texas law dictates if there was no will.
Probate is the legal process that oversees the distribution of a person’s property after his or her death. Your options will differ depending on your unique situation. Some of the factors include:
- Whether there was a will
- Size of the estate
- Types of assets
- Family makeup and dynamics
We work with you to find the least costly option that will meet your needs. Our attorneys are skilled in handling all types of probate issues for clients throughout Ellis, Johnson, Tarrant, and Dallas Counties.
Contact us today to learn how we can help you.
Affidavits of Heirship
If the only property a loved one left behind was a house and there was no will, it is sometimes possible to use an affidavit of heirship in lieu of more complicated and costly procedures. An affidavit of heirship shows the family history of the decedent, describes the property, and is signed by the client (normally) and by two disinterested witnesses. When filed in the real property records of a county, this document might suffice for the needed “link” in the chain of title. Depending on the circumstances, an affidavit of heirship might be an option even if there was a will if the same persons named in the will are also the loved one’s heirs.
Small Estate Affidavit
Sometimes debts, bank accounts in the loved one’s name, and assets other than his/her house, make an affidavit of heirship insufficient. If the decedent had an estate worth under $75,000 (not including homestead), a small estate affidavit might be an option. Before selecting this option, we recommend asking the banks or other entities who are holding assets of the decedent if they would accept a small estate affidavit. Some entities will require an heirship determination or an administration (see below). Also, note that small estate affidavits are only an option if there was no will.
When there is no will and neither an affidavit of heirship nor a small estate affidavit will suffice, Texas has a court procedure called a determination of heirship. The process involves going before a judge and asking for an order declaring who the heirs of the loved one were. It involves filing an application with the court, the appointment of an attorney ad litem (the court does this to investigate the family history and represent “unknown heirs”), and a court hearing with witnesses. The judgment declaring heirship is often accepted by more places than affidavit of heirship or a small estate affidavit. Note that if the estate needs an administrator, an heirship determination alone will not be enough.
Independent administration enables an administrator or executor to pay debts and perform other actions without asking the court for permission to do so. An independent administrator must still act in accordance with the will’s stipulations and he/she needs to follow other legal requirements as well.
In dependent administration of an estate, the estate administrator must have the court’s permission before paying debts, closing accounts, disposing of property, or taking other actions during probate. Dependent administration also may be necessary for decedents with substantial debts, when beneficiaries don’t get along, or when there’s a good chance the will may be contested.
Probating Will as Muniment of Title
A muniment of title is used to prove who the rightful owners of real property are when an administration is not necessary. This type of probate can be ideal for simple estates where the decedent has no debts other than their mortgage.