Having frequently encountered these situations and questions locally, I am passing this on as helpful information for homeowner’s and their relatives:
Most people think determining heirship is a simple process, and in some states it is, but in Texas, the laws regarding heirship are much more complex. Heirship is incredibly important when an individual passes away without leaving a will. A court will determine the legal heirs of the deceased’s estate so that the items contained therein can be passed on to them. So how does a court determine heirship?
Filing For Heirship
When a loved one passes away without leaving a will, also known as intestate, family members have to apply for heirship with the probate court responsible for distributing the deceased’s assets. In addition to receiving and reviewing heirship applications, the probate court will also determine if there are any unknown heirs with rights to the deceased’s property. Heirs can also adopt an affidavit of heirship, which is a legal document swearing you are the rightful heir to the deceased’s assets. By obtaining an affidavit of heirship, an heir can prevent the assets from going through probate court.
Who Can Be An Heir?
Heirship in Texas can be broken down into several different categories. These include:
Children, including adopted and illegitimate children
Brothers and sisters
While these are the most common types of heirs, relatives such as aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and stepchildren can all be considered heirs under certain circumstances.
How Are Assets Distributed?
Assets are distributed differently depending on the type of heirs involved. If an estate has only one type of heir, like a spouse, that heir will receive all of the assets. If there are several heirs of the same type, such as several children or multiple parents, the assets will be distributed equally among the heirs.
The distribution of assets gets more complicated when there is more than one type of heir involved. If an estate’s heirs are determined to be a spouse and children, the spouse will retain the right to use the deceased’s real estate property for the rest of his or her life. In addition, the spouse receives all community property and 1/3 of the deceased’s personal property. The remaining 2/3 of the personal property is equally distributed among the children. A similar distribution is used when the heirs are determined as a spouse and either parents or siblings, but the spouse receives all of the deceased’s personal property and only half of the deceased’s separate real estate.
Texas Heirship Attorneys
When an estate had more than two types of heirs or is a very large and complex estate, distribution can be complicated and often highly contested. Texas heirship has many nuances and complexities that require the help of an experienced probate attorney. If your loved one passed away without leaving a will, it is important not to waste time before speaking with an attorney. An attorney can help guide you through the probate process and ensure your loved one’s assets are distributed properly.
The above information was provided by Texas attorney Cory Krueger, of Hensley Krueger, Attorneys llp — April 03, 2018
Although there is much interesting information here, the primary message for us is to have a will. If you do not, the court will determine the distribution of your estate. This will happen without regard for your wishes and can cause great anxiety and cost for your heirs who are already dealing with a painful loss.
As a Realtor, I CANNOT give legal advice or opinion, but Realtors can refer you to several fine family lawyers and estate planners. Not the cheeriest of topics, but I hope you found this interesting and helpful. Our goal is to help equip people so they can make good decisions! :-)
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