The estates of Texas residents who die without a will must go through the probate process, which involves distribution of property to heirs. However, what happens if you do not know who the heirs are, or how much property each should receive?
This type of situation may require the filing of an application for determination of heirship, and having a court determine distribution of property among determined heirs. An application for determination of heirship can be filed by the estate’s personal representative, a creditor of the estate or someone who owns all or part of the decedent’s estate.
Representation by an attorney is necessary for filing an application for determination of heirship. A probate attorney is a valuable resource to have for this process, providing guidance and ensuring that all steps are correctly followed.
Once an application for determination of heirship is filed, the court identifies the heirs by first determining:
- The status of the estate’s property as separate or community property
- The marital status of the deceased
- If there are any marital children involved
Once the court identifies heirs, each heir 12 years of age and older must be notified that an application to determine heirship was filed. There may be situations involving the existence of heirs whose names and locations are unavailable. In those cases, the court appoints an attorney to represent their interests.
The probate hearing
After heirs are identified and provided notice of the application, a hearing is scheduled for the court to determine how the property of the estate will be divided. The law requires that 2 disinterested witnesses attend the hearing. A disinterested witness is someone who has no financial interest in the estate.
Probate court can be complex, particularly in situations where an application to determine heirship is required. Finding a good probate attorney can make a huge difference.