If a Texas resident dies (the “decedent”) without a Will (“intestate”) and the estate assets are less than $75,000 (excluding exempt property such as a homestead if it retains its homestead status when there is a surviving spouse and minor children of the decedent in addition to certain personal property such as home furnishings, farm and ranching vehicles, tools, two (2) guns, sporting equipment, one (1) car, pets, etc.), the distributees of the estate can be distributed the assets without waiting for the appointment of a personal representative if certain conditions are met.

Some of the conditions are as follows: (1) thirty (30) days have elapsed since the date of decedent’s death; (2) no petition for the appointment of a personal representative is pending or has been granted; (3) the value of the estate assets does not exceed $75,000 (excluding exempt property as mentioned in the preceding paragraph); and (4) an affidavit is sworn to by two (2) disinterested witnesses and each distributee (unless the distributee is a minor or is incapacitated in which case it would be signed by their guardian). The affidavit would include the family history of the decedent and each distributee’s right to receive estate money after listing the name and address of each distributee and a list of all known estate assets and liabilities. 

If all of the conditions above are met, the affidavit is submitted to the court (without the necessity of a court appearance). If the court determines all conditions were met, the court will sign an order of approval. The distributees can then take to whomever holds custody or possession of the asset (i.e., a bank) who would then distribute the assets (subject to the liabilities) to the distributees since it can rely on a court order. Of course, if someone signs an affidavit and the statements are untrue, then there could be personal liability. 

Since the requirements are relatively minimal compared to a proceeding for a determination of heirship, if there are limited or no debts and there is no Will, a small estate affidavit and order is a good option for many if the decedent’s estate is small (under $75,000).

If interested in learning more, consider attending our next free “Estate Planning Essentials” Workshop either Saturday, April 27, 2019 at 10:00 a.m. or on Thursday, May 23, 2019 at 1:00 p.m. by calling us at (214) 720-0102 or signing up online at www.dallaselderlawyer.com or by clicking here. We are also having a Facebook Live Event on Saturday, May 4, 2019 from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. Attendees of the live webinar (and the “Estate Planning Essentials” workshops) will be eligible for a free one hour vision meeting with Michael B. Cohen. Please RSVP to the “Facebook Live Event” by clicking here and then click “going” to submit your questions for Michael B. Cohen (you must be logged in to Facebook in order to RSVP). You may also submit your questions for the “Facebook Life Event” by clicking here.

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