While most estates undergo probate, Texas law provides for a summary probate administration for “small estates.” The value of such estates, excluding specific exempt property and family allowances, must be below the amount needed to satisfy certain creditors. There is no fixed dollar threshold for qualifying for summary probate administration.
Generally, an estate’s value comprises all assets, excluding exempt and non-probate assets. Exempt assets include items like a home for the surviving spouse or children, furniture, clothes, limited firearms, jewelry up to a certain value, tools, equipment, books, farming vehicles, and one vehicle per person. Non-probate assets, such as jointly owned accounts and certain real estate, pass directly to joint owners or beneficiaries.
Complete avoidance of probate may not always be possible, but steps can be taken to reduce the portion of assets subject to probate. To explore options for converting probate assets into non-probate assets, it is advisable to consult a Houston probate attorney.
For Guidance on the Probate Process, Consult the Houston Probate Lawyers
If you wish to secure your end-of-life plans and ease the process for your loved ones, contact the dedicated team of Houston estate planning lawyers at The Probate Law Group. With over 35 years of combined experience, we offer comprehensive probate services to help Texans plan for the future of generations to come. Schedule a consultation today by calling us at 713-597-7176.
In Texas, heirship refers to the legal system of inheritance that courts use when someone dies without a will or, in legal terms, when someone dies “intestate.” In these circumstances, Texas law dictates how a deceased person’s estate will be divided among their surviving relatives. The process begins with an heirship proceeding, a legal proceeding conducted to determine who the decedent’s heirs are and what percentage of the estate they are entitled to receive.
Heirship is most important when the deceased did not have a valid will in place when they died. For example, if there is a will, the will dictates how the deceased’s property will be distributed. However, without a will, courts distribute assets according to the Texas intestacy laws.
However, heirship proceedings also arise when the deceased had a will that left our certain property. In this situation, the court will distribute all assets included in the will according to the terms of the will and distribute any remaining assets based on the intestacy laws. Heirship can also be important when the terms of a trust require the trustee to determine the heirs of the deceased.
Heirship may also come into play if the will was invalid for any reason, such as it was the product of coercion. If there was a prior will, the court would distribute the estate’s assets based on that will. However, if there is not a prior will, the laws of intestacy will be applied.
If someone dies without a valid will, the court must determine the deceased’s heirs before it permits the distribution of estate assets. To do this, the court holds an heirship proceeding, usually at the request of the personal representative.
To initiate an heirship proceeding, the personal representative must file an Application for Proceeding to Declare Heirship under Texas Estates Code § 202.005. In this application, the personal representative must provide the following information:
Additionally, § 202.005 requires the personal representative to provide an explanation if any of the above information was not included in the application.
Finally, the personal representative must provide notice to all heirs as well as anyone who holds a property interest in any estate asset.
Once the court receives the application, it will determine the decedent’s legal heirs. These are the individuals who are entitled to inherit the property of the estate.
Heirship proceedings may seem straightforward—and in some cases, they are—however, with so much at stake, it is imperative these matters are handled with the utmost care and diligence. At The Probate Law Group, our knowledgeable team of Houston probate lawyers has more than 30 years of combined experience helping heirs establish and enforce their inheritance rights. We command an in-depth understanding of the Texas intestacy laws as well as the procedures governing heirship proceedings, so you can rest assured that your interests are protected. To learn more and to schedule a no-obligation consultation, you can reach us at 713-574-6080 or through our online contact form.
In Texas, a small estate affidavit (“SEA”) is a legal document that allows for the simplified transfer of assets from a deceased person’s estate to their heirs. In this way, an SEA is an alternative to a full probate administration and is a useful probate avoidance strategy when the value of the estate is relatively small and there is no need for a full probate process.
Small estate affidavits are not available in all—or even most—scenarios. Below is a list of some of the small estate affidavit requirements:
If an estate meets above criteria, you may be eligible to file a small estate affidavit in the county where the deceased lived.
Exempt property refers to a class of assets that Texas lawmakers determined do not need to be probated. Some of the most common examples of exempt assets include:
Non-probate property includes assets that are immediately transferred to a beneficiary when the owner dies. Often, non-probate assets would otherwise be required to go through the probate process, but for the structure of the ownership interest. For example, the following are all types of non-probate property:
If you are interested in learning more about whether you can file a small estate affidavit, reach out to The Probate Law Group in Houston, TX, we have extensive experience helping clients navigate the complexities of the Texas probate process, helping them identify the quickest and most efficient way to probate an estate. We’re immediately available to meet with you to learn more about your situation and discuss how we can help. To learn more, and to schedule a no-obligation consultation, you can reach us at 713-903-2042 or through our online contact form.
A Muniment of Title is a legal instrument used predominantly in probate proceedings to facilitate the transfer of property after a person’s death. Essentially, a Muniment of Title serves as proof or evidence of ownership, allowing assets to be transferred without going through the traditional probate process.
When a property owner passes away, transferring their assets can often be a complex and time-consuming process. The traditional probate process involves authenticating the deceased person’s will, if they have one, appointing an executor, identifying and inventorying the deceased’s property, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets to rightful heirs or beneficiaries. This process can be lengthy, expensive, and sometimes contentious among the potential beneficiaries.
This is where a Muniment of Title comes in handy. If the deceased has a valid will, there are no unpaid debts (other than those secured by real estate), and Medicaid has no claim against the estate for recovery of benefits, then the property can be transferred directly to the beneficiaries via a Muniment of Title. The will is admitted to probate as a muniment (evidence) of title, bypassing the more drawn-out probate administration process.
If you have a loved one who recently passed away, and the thought of a lengthy probate process is unappealing, probating the will as a Muniment of Title may be something to consider. At The Probate Law Group in Houston,TX, we have extensive experience both advising and executing our client’s estate plans. We are here to help you through every step of the way. To learn more and to schedule a no-obligation consultation, you can reach us at 713-574-6080 or through our online contact form.
To file an application for Muniment of Title, you must provide certain information about yourself as the applicant, the deceased and their property, including the following:
There is additional information that may be necessary in some cases. An experienced Houston probate lawyer can assist you in gathering all the necessary information to prepare an Application for Muniment of Title.
An affidavit of heirship is a legal document used in Texas to establish the legal heirs of a deceased individual, particularly when they die without a will or estate plan. This affidavit is typically filed in the county where the decedent’s property is located and includes detailed information about the decedent, their death, and their heirs. Some of the information required to complete an affidavit of heirship includes the names, addresses, and relationships of all the legal heirs, the list of the decedent’s property, and any debts the decedent had at the time of their death.
An affidavit of heirship allows heirs to bypass the probate process entirely. However, there are strict rules governing when an affidavit of heirship is permitted. For example, you can only file an affidavit of heirship if the deceased either did not have a last will and testament or the deceased had a will, but it was not probated within four years of their death. An affidavit of heirship is most commonly used to transfer ownership of real property, such as a home. While there are other assets that can be transferred through an affidavit of heirship, you cannot use it to transfer bank accounts or financial accounts.
Texas Estates Code §§ 203.001 and 203.002 outline the process for submitting an affidavit of heirship. These laws provide that an affidavit of heirship must be signed by a person who was familiar with the deceased, their family, and their property but is not financially interested in executing the document. For example, a neighbor or friend of the family are two common choices.
The person completing the affidavit must provide some background information about how they knew the deceased, the deceased’s marital and family history, how many children the deceased had, whether they died with or without a will, and whether they left any unpaid debts. Once complete, the affidavit of heirship must be signed in front of a notary.
There are two primary benefits to filing an affidavit of heirship. First, doing so protects your rights because once filed, an affidavit of heirship serves as proof that you are the deceased’s heir. Thus, this helps strengthen your claim to any assets that they left behind. Second, filing an affidavit of heirship is much faster and less expensive than following the traditional probate process.
If you are heir to an estate, but your loved one didn’t have a will, you may be able to bypass the probate process by filing an affidavit of heirship. At The Probate Law Group, our attorneys have extensive, hands-on experience helping clients navigate the estate administration process. We are familiar with the various probate avoidance strategies. To learn more and to schedule a no-obligation consultation, you can reach us at 713-574-6080 or through our online contact form.
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