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How to file probate without a will in Texas

Probate in Texas without a will? Follow our guide below to get expert guidance on filing for probate without a will in Texas.

Filing probate without a will in Texas

Navigating the probate process without a will or without a valid will in Texas can be a daunting task, but understanding the essential steps and requirements can help ease the burden during this challenging time.

In this guide, we'll walk you through the intricacies of filing probate without a will, from determining intestacy and identifying heirs to selecting the appropriate administration type and fulfilling executor duties.

By following our step-by-step approach, you'll be better equipped to settle the estate and ensure a smoother transition for the surviving family members and beneficiaries.

Is Probate Always Necessary in Texas Without a Will?

In most cases, probate will be needed if the deceased passed away intestate. Technically speaking, probate is not always necessary in Texas when someone dies without a will.

Only in certain situations, alternative processes can be used to distribute the deceased person's assets without the need for a dependent administration.

Small estates in Texas valued under $75,000 can go through a more simplified process using a small estate affidavit. Compared to the months and even years a full administration case might take through the probate court.

Additionally, if the deceased had few assets like real property and a vehicle - the deceased’s assets can be transferred by using an affidavit of heirship. This affidavit can be used as long as it is clear who the rightful heirs are and there is no disagreement or challenge to their claim to the property.

Key factors determining the necessity of probate include the types of assets, their value, and the presence of any surviving joint owners or designated beneficiaries.

Certain assets may be exempt from the discretion of the court.

This includes assets that have a pre-determined recipient, including the following:

  • Life Insurance money with a stated recipient
  • Bank accounts that are part of a joint account
  • Retirement accounts with a stated recipient
  • Transfer on Death Deeds, specifically related to real estate

How to Settle an Estate Without a Will in Texas

The Texas Probate Code outlines the steps for administering an intestate estate, which involves determining the appropriate court, applying for Letters of Administration, and distributing assets according to Texas intestacy laws. In this section, we will explore these steps in detail to help you successfully settle an estate without a will in the Lone Star State.

1. Determine intestacy: Although it may seem the deceased did not leave a will, it is imperative that you look everywhere for a valid will such as the deceased’s personal lawyer, accountant, safety deposit box, safe, filing cabinets, etc. Settling an estate without a will can prolong probate and make it that much more difficult for the administrator.

2. Identify heirs: In the unfortunate event the deceased passed away intestate, the administrator must determine the legal heirs of the deceased according to Texas Estates Code, considering their relationship to the deceased and any surviving descendants.

3. Assess the estate's size and complexity: Small estates with minimal assets and no real property may qualify for a simplified process, while larger estates may require formal probate administration.

4. Identify the means of administration:

a: Affidavit of Heirship: The affidavit of heirship identifies the deceased's heirs, and their relationship to the deceased, and lists the estate's assets. Heirs must sign the affidavit before a notary public, and two disinterested witnesses must also sign it. Then, file the affidavit with the county clerk's office where the deceased's property is located.

b: Small Estate Affidavit: If the estate's assets, excluding homestead and exempt property, are worth $75,000 or less and there is no real property, heirs can file a Small Estate Affidavit. The affidavit requires information about the deceased, heirs, and the estate's assets and debts. All heirs must sign it, and a judge must approve it. File the approved affidavit with the county clerk's office to transfer assets to the heirs.

c: Probate Administration: For larger estates or those with real property, you may need to initiate a formal probate process, such as independent administration or dependent administration. Choose the appropriate administration type based on the estate's size, complexity, and whether all heirs agree on an independent administration.

5. Apply for Letters of Administration:

To apply for Letters of Administration in Texas, first locate the appropriate probate court in the county where the deceased lived or owned property.

Next, complete the Application for Administration, providing information such as the deceased's name, date of death, and residence, a statement confirming the absence of a valid will, the proposed administrator's details, a list of heirs and their relationships, a general description of the estate's assets and their estimated value, and the reason for requesting administration.

Finally, submit the completed application to the probate court and pay the required filing fees, which typically range from $200 to $400, depending on the county.

6. Post bond if applicable. The amount is based on the estate’s size and complexity.

7. Notify creditors and heirs: Inform creditors of the estate administration by publishing a notice in the local newspaper. This can be done by a Google search “notice to creditors - *county name*” You can also read our detailed guide on how to publish a notice to creditors: here

8. Inventory and appraise assets: Within 90 days of receiving Letters of Administration, file an inventory, appraisement, and list of claims form with the court. This form provides the court with a detailed list of estate assets and their value such as: Real property, stock and bonds, cash, and bank accounts etc.

9. Settle debts and taxes: If you’ve been approached by creditors and their claims are true, or if you’ve filed the deceased terminal taxes and prior years' tax returns and they owe money? You as the administrator are responsible for paying for the debts and taxes owed by the estate. *Unless the estate is insolvent.

10. Estate distributions: After the estate debts and taxes have been paid, distribute the remaining assets following Texas intestate succession laws.

11. Close the estate: File a final accounting report with the court and request permission to close the estate.

Important to note: Once appointed estate administrator, it’s important to order more death certificates than you think you need. Every financial institution will ask for one.

In conclusion, settling an estate without a will in Texas can be a complex and emotionally taxing process. However, with the right guidance and expertise, you can navigate the probate system with confidence and ease.

Don't let the challenges of intestate estates overwhelm you. Book a free consultation with our experienced professionals today, and let us help you ensure a timely and smooth settlement for your loved one's estate.

Together, we can provide the support you need to bring peace of mind to you and your family during this difficult time.

Frequently asked questions about probating an intestate estate in Texas

What happens to a bank account when someone dies without a will in Texas?

When someone dies without a will in Texas, the immediate status of their bank account depends on whether a beneficiary is listed and the steps taken by the estate's administrator.

Here is the common process a bank follows after they are notified of the death of their client:

  1. The bank is notified of the death: The deceased's bank must be informed about their passing, which may require presenting a death certificate.

  2. Bank freezes the account: Upon notification, the bank freezes the account to prevent further charges and protect it from potential fraud.

  3. The estate administrator provides documentation: If the bank account does not have a listed beneficiary, the court-appointed estate administrator must present documentation, such as Letters of Administration, proving their authorization over the estate.

  4. Administrator distributes the bank account: The administrator is responsible for distributing the bank account's funds according to Texas intestate law, which outlines how assets are divided among heirs in the absence of a will.

Alternatively, if the bank account had a listed beneficiary (payable-on-death or transfer-on-death designation), the account can bypass the probate process and be directly transferred to the intended beneficiary upon presenting the required documentation, such as a death certificate and identification.

How much does probate cost without a will?

The cost of probating an estate without a will in Texas can be difficult to estimate, as it depends on various factors unique to each case. Probating an estate without a will can potentially incur higher costs, especially if your attorney charges by the hour, due to tasks such as searching for heirs, proving the administrator's validity in court, and attending court dates.

Additional expenses may include accounting fees, which could vary depending on the deceased's tax filing status, and other costs like property management, realtor fees, and estate sale fees. Given these variables, it's challenging to provide a specific figure for probate costs without a will.

However, at ClearEstate we offer a straightforward flat-rate fee for probate services, eliminating the need for an expensive lawyer. We handle probate, estate accounting, beneficiary communication, and more - all under one roof, simplifying the process and providing peace of mind during a difficult time.

If you’d like to know more about how we can help you, through probate - book a free consultation today with our experienced probate professional team today.

How long does probate take without a will in Texas?

The duration of the probate process without a will in Texas can vary significantly, as it depends on the unique circumstances of each estate.

Generally, probate takes around 8-12 months to settle; however, this timeline may not be the case for intestate estates.

Factors that can prolong the process include finding a suitable administrator, potential delays due to incorrectly filed documents, and the court system's backlog. Additionally, if the estate is complex and involves properties in multiple jurisdictions, ancillary probate may be required, further extending the timeline.

Consequently, there is no one-size-fits-all answer to how long probate may take without a will in Texas, as the duration is influenced by the specific details and challenges of each case.

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