When a person passes without a Will, they often leave their family and friends in a state of confusion as to how to dispose of their personal property and real estate. Attempting to pay burial expenses and estate debts can be very costly and frustrating when you are unable to access the bank account of the Decedent. In addition, paying taxes on a home or trying to refinance a home can be very difficult if no one will give you information because your name is not on the deed. These are common occurrences when a loved one passes, but the law provides for alternatives to probating a will that allow you to handle the affairs of a deceased loved one.
AFFIDAVIT OF HEIRSHIP
An Affidavit of Heirship is generally used when someone dies without a Will and has left real estate. To have title to the property transferred to the Decedent’s heirs, the heirs can file an affidavit of heirship in the deed records of the county in which any piece of real estate owned by the Decedent is located.
The affidavit must be signed by all the heirs and two disinterested witnesses (two people that knew the Decedent and his family history but do not stand to gain financially from the estate).
TRANSFER ON DEATH DEED
An alternate way to transfer real property to someone else upon the death of the Decedent is to have the Decedent execute a Transfer on Death Deed. The deed allows the owner to keep the exact same rights to the property that they’ve always had while they are alive, but in the event of their death the property will automatically transfer to a designated beneficiary.
It works similarly to a life insurance policy or a payable on death bank account because the asset passes directly to the beneficiary named in the transfer on death deed without having to get the probate court involved.
SMALL ESTATE AFFIDAVIT
A Small Estate Affidavit is similar to an Affidavit of Heirship, but this document is generally used to handle the Decedent’s financial affairs (banks and other financial institutions) and does not transfer title to real estate. This document is filed with the probate clerk in the county where the Decedent passed or any county where the Decedent owns real estate. This document must be signed by all the Decedent’s heirs and two disinterested witnesses.
In order to file a Small Estate Affidavit, the Decedent’s estate must be less than $50,000 dollars in assets, excluding real estate.
Attorney Krystin Collins is a native of the Acres Homes Community. She is a graduate of Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law and has been a licensed attorney since 2009. Her primary practice areas are criminal defense, civil litigation, personal injury, estate planning, and divorce. She may be contacted at 713-775-0332 or firstname.lastname@example.org.