Articles Posted in Heirs

Sometimes, a decedent leaves behind property, and it is unclear who the property belongs to after the decedent is gone. Under the right circumstances, interested parties in Texas can file an affidavit to determine heirship, which allows the probate court to sort out who should get the property in question or who makes up the deceased’s heirs. Today, we walk you through the basics of this affidavit, so you can figure out if it might be right for you.

What is an Affidavit to Determine Heirship?

In Texas, individuals can file an affidavit to determine heirship if they want a court to determine who qualifies as a decedent’s heir and who gets property that was left behind by the descendent. These affidavits can be helpful either when a decedent’s estate has not yet been administered or when a decedent’s property was left out of his or her estate plan.

What Happens When a Court Receives an Affidavit to Determine Heirship?

Once an individual files an affidavit to determine heirship, the court holds a proceeding to reach a conclusion on who should receive the decedent’s property. The court will consider several factors, including: whether the decedent was married, whether the decedent had children, and if the property has been inhabited by other individuals in the recent past. After weighing the relevant factors, the court will issue a decision as to who qualifies as the heirs to the property.

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2.3.20“The heirs of a philanthropist who donated a historic theater to the City of Miami want it back.”

A dissolved nonprofit controlled by the heirs of Maurice Gusman sued the city of Miami recently, in an attempt to regain control of the Olympia Theater and restore it to its former glory. They claim city officials have squandered the theater built in 1926 and violated the terms of an agreement with their grandfather, Maurice Gusman.

The heirs and the dissolved corporation’s directors are Maurice Gusman’s grandchildren: Bruce Gusman, Robert Gusman and Jackie Gusman Thayer.

6.10.19Despite early reports that she had no will, it seems the Queen of Soul spent a fair amount of time creating three wills to provide for her four sons and leaving behind some strong opinions of the people in her circles. She just didn’t share those wills with her attorney.

When Aretha Franklin died of pancreatic cancer last August, it seemed that she had joined the ranks of  many celebrities who never created their wills or thought much about what they wanted their legacy to be.

The Detroit News’s recent article, “Handwritten wills found in Aretha Franklin home favor her four sons” reports that three handwritten wills have been discovered in one of her homes.

7.3.18Watching Anthony Bourdain travel the lesser known corners of the world and relish exotic foods and people was fascinating.  However, that same approach does not work well, when it comes to more mundane matters, like estate planning.

What Anthony Bourdain’s family could have used was a disaster plan, based on his adventures that made for great television, as reported in Wealth Advisor’s recent article, “Anthony Bourdain Left Loved Ones In Limbo But The Heirs Will End Up Better Than Michael Jackson’s.” To date, there has not been any information about his estate. No attorney, advisor or agent has stepped up to convey any information to the public.

Although his life revolved around his personal participation in every venture, there’s no indication that the work can continue without him.

7.19.17If you plan on leaving the family home to your heirs when you die, be aware of the tax liabilities that are associated with inheriting a house.

This is the type of estate planning decision that requires a closer look with an estate planning attorney to evaluate the pros and cons, as well as the short and long-term consequences. First, you’ll need to know the value of the house, which will be based on its fair market value on the date of the owner’s death, according to a recent article from, “Complex inheritance taxes on a home.”

If you have a home valued at over $1 million, it may sell for close to that amount. Let’s say that you’re single and are 80 years old. You live with your widowed sister. Your will instructs that your sister should have life ownership when you pass and then it is left in trust for nieces and nephews. What would their tax bill be?

6.21.17Unintended consequences can occur when dividing up real property, which is often harder to distribute than investment accounts or savings accounts. Planning for real property division must take into account the different circumstances of your heirs.

You may have envisioned a time in the future, when your children and grandchildren enjoy the same lakeside home as you have for years after you’re gone, and are pleased with the idea of leaving the family vacation home to the next generation. But think again, says a recent article in Financial Planning, “Save clients from tax pitfalls, family strife when passing on that lake cabin,” because your vision may not translate into reality.

Some of the kids may be attached to the family vacation home and want to keep it. If possible, the best solution is a buyout among the siblings. That’s not as simple if finances don’t allow it, and the sentimental siblings are forced to sell, resulting in hard feelings. Another option is to put the vacation home in an irrevocable trust to remove it from the estate.

4.26.17Without the spending habits of Michael Jackson and the involvement of members of his inner circle, the Jackson estate has been transformed into an efficient multi-million dollar empire.

As it stands now, the only factors that might keep the Michael Jackson money machine from moon-walking into eternity are his heirs.

The estate recently severed ties to Jackson’s publicist and former management team, after a multi-year courtroom battle. The losers said they stood by the star at a really low point in his life. In return, they claimed, he promised them 15% of his business. Trust Advisor’s recent article, “Michael Jackson Estate Reveals Mr. Hyde Side: Dead Star Now Fighting His Friends,” explained that since the estate wanted all of the cash, whatever Michael really wanted is of little consequence without legal documentation. Since a judge has dismissed the claim, the estate can continue consolidating its hold over every aspect of the Michael Jackson brand. All the old relationships that he once had with partners and advisors are gone.

11.29.16When the greed nerve gets tapped, relationships suffer. There are things you can do now that will lessen the likelihood of family battles after you pass.

Every family has its own dynamics, and some siblings that never resolve their differences, no matter how many years go by. When both parents pass away, siblings either make peace with each other (and regret the lost years) or go at it even more intensely. Adding money to the mix can spell disaster and split families permanently.

Motley Fool’s article, “Avoid family fights over inheritance,” says you might be surprised at the amount of money that can cause arguments. It doesn’t have to be a fortune—deep-seated feelings of rivalry and jealously are, in many instances, at the root of the problem. With that in mind, let’s look at four ideas to consider in an attempt to avoid a battle royal over your assets:

9.8.16A cautionary tale ends with a will being declared invalid, firings at the local police station and a lesson in elder abuse.

A wealthy 92 year old woman suffering from dementia left a $2 million estate to a local police sergeant but after three years of legal wrangling, her will was found to be invalid and the police officer and his supervisor were both fired from their positions. In New Hampshire Magazine’s September 2016 issue the article “Navigating Non-Relative Inheritance,” explains how vigilant professionals must be, especially in cases where children or other family members are being disinherited.

Just about all of the inheritances in a typical estate go to family members or to the deceased’s favorite charities. But when an unrelated individual is the beneficiary of a valuable asset or a large sum of money, it can raise questions and perhaps suspicions from those who felt they had a right to the inheritance. The issue may become how to balance the wishes of the testator—by distributing his or her assets as he or she sees fit—with the right of the bequeathed or the beneficiary of the will to accept it without creating a conflict of interest or violating the essential trust.

9.6.16Forget to make these changes and your heirs may never forgive you. Forget to align these documents, and your estate planning attorney will never forget you.

Once the process of legally ending your marriage begins, you will need to make sure that your own interests are protected and that includes updating your estate plan to reflect this big life change. While some things may remain the same, like leaving your children certain assets, be assured that pretty much everything else will change, according to Forbes’ article, “The First Thing You Must Do When Your Divorce Is Final.”

Once your divorce is final, that is, the divorce decree has been approved by a judge, and a judgment rendered, contact your estate attorney and begin to review and revise the following legal and estate planning documents:

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