When a person dies, there may be ways to avoid the probate process for certain assets, including both personal and real property. For example, in certain circumstances, when an estate does not have outstanding debts (except those secured by real estate), the transfer of assets can be accomplished without the time and expense of the formal probate process. Below are alternative options to probate in Texas:
Affidavit of Heirship.
· Generally used when someone dies without a Will and leaves only real estate to the heirs.
· The heirs file an Affidavit of Heirship in the deed records of the county in which any piece of real estate owned by the Decedent is located.
· The property then transfers in accordance with the laws of the state.
Small Estate Affidavit.
· Available for estates having less than $50,000 in assets, exclusive of real estate.
· It is filed with the Probate Court in the county of the Decedent’s residence at the time of death or any county in which the Decedent owned real estate.
· Once the Affidavit is filed, the court issues an Order approving the Affidavit and orders all included property transferred pursuant to the Affidavit.
· This Texas-specific alternative can be met with great resistance by banks and institutions not familiar with the process, ultimately resulting in full probate of the estate.
Judicial Determination of Heirship.
· When someone dies without leaving a Will, the court can conduct a formal Determination of Heirship.
· The court formally identifies the heirs and pursuant to that order, the property can be divided and distributed amongst the heirs.
· While the formal Judgment offered by this process is a great benefit to the estate’s heirs, the time and costs involved in obtaining a Determination of Heirship makes it a less-attractive alternative for use unless necessary.
If you have any questions about estate planning and the probate process, please contact Rosenblatt Law Firm for information.