There are many types of Probate procedures. These procedures vary considerably in each state. Texas has more than one kind of procedure, although not all probate procedures are available to all estates.


We will be publishing a four-part series on the different types here in Texas. In this article we will discuss the Small Estate Affidavit Procedure, which is one probate procedure available if someone passed away without a will.


For most probate procedures, some level of court involvement is necessary. In urban areas, the Texas legislature has established specialized "probate courts" to undertake this task. In counties without large urban centers, probate is handled by county courts at law, which also handle other types of cases.


Small Estate Affidavit Procedure


This type of procedure may be used where the "probate" estate is made up of property not exceeding a maximum value set by state law and can only be used if the Decedent did not have a will. This maximum under Texas law is now currently $75,000, excluding the value of the decedent's homestead and certain exempt assets. The small estate affidavit will not work to transfer title to real estate other than the decedent's home and cannot transfer the decedent’s home to someone other than the surviving spouse or minor or incapacitated minor. Under the affidavit procedure, no Will is filed for probate, and no executor is appointed. The person settling the estate, usually the surviving spouse or next of kin, signs a legal form known as an affidavit stating such things as:


  1. the statutory waiting period following the death (30 days) has elapsed

  2. the estate does not exceed the legal limits

  3. the person signing the form is legally entitled to receive the decedent's assets


The affidavit must be sworn to by two disinterested witnesses and by all adult distributees.

Disinterested witness means a “witness who is not a spouse, child, parent, sibling, grandchild, grandparent, or guardian of or other adult who exhibited special care and concern for the individual who makes, amends, revokes, or refuses to make an anatomical gift”.


Costs


Because the probate court is not involved in overseeing the process of administration, the costs of using the affidavit procedure are low The lack of court involvement may result in faster settlement. Parties receiving the affidavit are required to transfer the decedent's property to the designated person or persons. As indicated above, however, the affidavit procedure is not effective to transfer title to real property other than the decedent's homestead to anyone but the surviving spouse or a minor or incapacitated child/children. If the decedent owned real property other than his or her homestead, had a homestead but was not survived by a surviving spouse and/or minor or incapacitated children, or owned non-exempt assets with a value more than $75,000, another probate procedure must be used.


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We hope you found this article valuable and will continue to follow as we share more information on these types of subjects. Please reach out to The Hoggatt Law Firm, PLLC if you feel that we could assist you with any of the legal matters discussed in this article. The Hoggatt Law Firm, PLLC is ready to assist you with your estate planning, probate and business’ legal needs.


The Hoggatt Law Firm, PLLC presents the information in this article for general education purposes only. Although this article discusses legal issues, it is not legal advice. The law and the content may have changed since this article was written, and The Hoggatt Law Firm, PLLC makes no warranty or guarantee about the continuing accuracy of the information presented. Use of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship, and The Hoggatt Law Firm, PLLC does not represent you unless and until we are expressly retained in writing.

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If a loved one has appointed you to be their Independent Executor/Executrix in the event of their death do you know what that really means? It can be confusing and a little scary but here are some things to keep in mind.


What is an Independent Executor?


First things first, what IS an Independent Executor? An executor is appointed in the will of a decedent (the person who passed away), to administer their estate. Generally, if the decedent died without a valid will, the term ‘administrator’ is used. When the court appoints an independent executor, the court issues “letters testamentary” to the appointed person. In the case of an administrator, the court issues “letters of administration”. Either type of letters tells third parties that the executor or administrator has been authorized by the court to administer the affairs of the decedent.


Your general duties as an Independent Executor (or Administrator) include: collect all assets, pay off any debts of the deceased, and to distribute the estate assets according to the Will or according to your state’s law.


How to Become Qualified as an Independent Executor/Administrator


You must become qualified in both of the following was in order to become an Independent Executor/Administrator:


  1. Take an oath with the Court: this must be done within 20 days from the date the court signed the order appointing you as Independent Executor.

  2. File any bonds that may be required by the court

Once the above has been completed, you will then receive Letters Testamentary or Letters of Administration. These are the proof that you are an authorized person to act on behalf of the estate. You will need to present these letters to persons holding the assets of the estate so that they know you are the representative of the estate. Once you have collected all of the assets you must then notify creditors.


How to Put a Notice Out to Creditors


By law you are required to publish a notice to creditors in a newspaper printed in the county where the Decedent was a resident of at the time of their passing. The notice must be filed with the court within 30 days of receiving Letters Testamentary (or Letters of Administration).

In addition, you must give notice to all known secured creditors. A secured creditor holds a claim secured by a deed of trust, mortgage or some other lien on a property. You must file this notice with the court within 60 days of receiving Letters Testamentary. There is also a process to deal with unsecured creditors but you’ll need to discuss those options with your attorney.


How to Notify Beneficiaries


If there is a beneficiary named in the Will, you must give them notice within 60 days of the date the Will was probated. Within 90 days you must file an affidavit or certificate with the court to confirm notice was given to said beneficiary.


Other Duties


You must also submit an Inventory (or an Affidavit in Lieu of Inventory to the court if the requirements are met), file taxes for the estate, and in certain cases you have the ability to sell estate property to pay estate expenses. Once all of the duties have been completed, you may close the estate.


We hope you found this article valuable and will continue to follow as we share more information on these types of subjects. Please reach out to The Hoggatt Law Firm, PLLC if you feel that we could assist you with any of the legal matters discussed in this article. The Hoggatt Law Firm, PLLC is ready to assist you with your estate planning, probate and business’ legal needs.


The Hoggatt Law Firm, PLLC presents the information in this article for general education purposes only. Although this article discusses legal issues, it is not legal advice. The law and the content may have changed since this article was written, and The Hoggatt Law Firm, PLLC makes no warranty or guarantee about the continuing accuracy of the information presented. Use of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship, and The Hoggatt Law Firm, PLLC does not represent you unless and until we are expressly retained in writing.

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