Probating a Texas Will if You Don’t Know All the Deceased’s 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.

As always, there are several key procedural requirements involved in the affidavit to determine heirship. For example, individuals filing this kind of affidavit must have an attorney representing them throughout the process. Each individual heir of the decedent must also receive notice of the affidavit so that he or she has the opportunity to attend the proceeding and petition for the property.

If there are heirs that are unknown, it is possible the court will appoint someone called an attorney ad litem, whose job is to represent the interest of unknown heirs. This attorney will likely want to make sure that in case an heir shows up that was previously unaccounted for, that person has a meaningful opportunity to receive any propery that is rightfully theirs.

These petitions can be helpful tools when a loved one’s estate plan leaves questions as to how his or her propery should be distributed. It is important, though, to remember that having a qualified attorney is essential throughout this process, since the court’s decision regarding who receives the decedent’s property has significant repercussions for those involved.

Are You Looking for a Texas Estate Planning Attorney?

At McCulloch & Miller, we are experts in probate and estate planning, and we make it as easy as possible for our clients to figure out how to make these processes work for them. If you do not yet have an attorney to handle your matters in Texas, know that we are standing by and ready to offer you our expertise. For a consultation with a member of our Houston estate planning team, give us a call today at (713) 333-8900. You can also fill out our online form to tell us about your circumstances and have an attorney reach back out to you.

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