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Small Estates Affidavit in Texas

Small Estate Affidavit 1920W

For estates with limited assets, Texas offers a simplified legal procedure called the Small Estates Affidavit. This process allows heirs and beneficiaries to claim the property of the deceased without going through a formal probate process, making it more accessible and efficient for estates that meet specific criteria.

At Norris & Golubovic, PLLC, we understand the importance of streamlining these procedures to alleviate the burden on grieving families. With years of experience in estate planning and probate law, we can help you claim your inheritance confidently and with peace of mind.

Why Hire Us to Handle Your Small Estate Affidavit?

Putting together a Texas Small Estate Affidavit requires experience, attention to detail, and an in-depth understanding of estate law. When you choose Norris & Golubovic, PLLC, you’re gaining a trusted partner with a proven track record of helping clients with their probate and estate planning needs. Here’s why you should consider hiring us to handle your Small Estate Affidavit:

  • Our legal team brings years of experience in estate planning and probate law to the table. Your Small Estate Affidavit will be accurately prepared and submitted in accordance with Texas laws.
  • At Norris & Golubovic, PLLC, we recognize that every situation is different. We take the time to understand your specific circumstances and tailor our approach to address your concerns and objectives. Your peace of mind and satisfaction are our top priorities.
  • Creating a Small Estate Affidavit requires careful attention to detail to ensure all necessary documentation is accurately prepared. We meticulously review your case to guarantee that your affidavit is complete, compliant, and ready for submission.

When you hire Norris & Golubovic, PLLC to create your Small Estate Affidavit, you’re choosing a legal team that combines expertise, dedication, and compassion to ensure the estate is handled with the proper respect and attention to detail.

Small Estate Affidavit Requirements:

  • The decedent (legal term for deceased person) died without a Will.
  • The decedent left less than $75,000 in property (not including homestead property and exempt property)
  • The assets are worth more than the debts.
  • When calculating the value of the debts and the assets, do not consider any mortgages or debts secured by exempt property as debts, and do not consider homestead and exempt property as assets.
  • The only real property owned by the decedent was decedent’s homestead property, and the real property will be inherited only by person(s) homesteading with the decedent at the time decedent died—decedent’s surviving spouse and minor child(ren) who resided on property with decedent.
  • All of the heirs and their locations are known, and all of the heirs will sign the Small Estate Affidavit (or someone with legal authority will sign on their behalf).
  • There is no pending application for appointment of a personal representative and no personal representative has been appointed by a court.
  • No administration of the decedent’s estate is needed.

What is a Small Estate Affidavit?

A Small Estate Affidavit in Texas is a legal document that allows beneficiaries of a deceased person’s estate to collect and transfer its assets without going through a formal probate process.  To use one, the estate must meet specific conditions, including:

  • The decedent died without a valid Will.
  • They left less than $75,000 in property (not including homestead and exempt property)
  • The assets are worth more than the debts. Do not include mortgages or debts secured by exempt property.
  • The only real property owned by the decedent was their homestead and it will be inherited by the person or people homesteading living with them, such as a surviving spouse and minor child(ren).
  • All of the heirs and their locations are known.
  • All of the heirs will sign the document or authorize someone to do so for them.
  • There is no pending application for appointment of a personal representative and no personal representative has been appointed by a court.
  • No administration of the decedent’s estate is needed.

Using a Small Estate Affidavit involves preparing a sworn document that includes information about the deceased person, the assets and debts of the estate, and those entitled to the assets. The affidavit is then presented to the appropriate court or entity, such as a financial institution, along with any required supporting documentation.

It’s important to note that while the Small Estate Affidavit is a simplified alternative to formal probate, it is still a legal process governed by specific rules and regulations. If you’re considering using a Small Estate Affidavit to handle a loved one’s estate, it’s recommended to consult with a Texas estate planning attorney to ensure that you meet all the requirements and navigate the process correctly.

Benefits of Small Estate Affidavit

The Small Estate Affidavit in Texas offers several benefits to beneficiaries or heirs who qualify to use this simplified process. These advantages make it an attractive option for those dealing with the distribution of assets in smaller estates:

  • Efficient Turnaround: The Small Estate Affidavit process is designed for efficiency. Once the required documents are properly filed, the turnaround time is relatively quick. Typically, the signed Small Estate Affidavit is issued within about a week from the filing date, allowing heirs to access their inheritances faster.
  • Limited Court Involvement: In many cases, the judge reviews and approves the Small Estate Affidavit “in chambers,” meaning their approval is obtained without requiring a formal court hearing. This reduces the administrative burden and speeds up the process.
  • Cost-Effective Probate Alternative: Compared to a formal probate process, which can involve court fees, attorney fees, and lengthy proceedings, the Small Estate Affidavit is often a more cost-effective option. It allows heirs to preserve a larger portion of the estate by avoiding some of the expenses associated with traditional probate.

An experienced estate planning attorney can help ensure that the Small Estate Affidavit process is successfully carried out while protecting the rights and interests of all parties involved.

Limitations of Small Estate Affidavits

While the Small Estate Affidavit in Texas offers a simplified and expedited process for distributing assets in smaller estates, it’s important to be aware of its limitations and potential challenges.

  • Strict Compliance Required: The Small Estate Affidavit process demands strict adherence to specific eligibility criteria and procedural requirements. If any of these requirements are not met, the estate may need to pursue other avenues for asset distribution.
  • No Personal Representative Appointed: Unlike a formal probate process, the Small Estate Affidavit does not involve the appointment of a personal representative. This means that there’s no designated individual with legal authority to manage the estate’s affairs, potentially leading to confusion or disputes among heirs.
  • Potential Reluctance from Out-of-State Financial Institutions: Since the Small Estate Affidavit is a Texas-specific procedure, it might not be recognized by out-of-state financial institutions. Some institutions may be unfamiliar with the process and may be reluctant to accept the affidavit as a valid means of transferring assets, especially if they are not well-versed in Texas probate laws.

Additional Small Estate Affidavit Resources

FAQS

What is Exempt Property?

For the purposes of the Small Estate Affidavit, exempt property includes:

  • The homestead, which is reserved for the benefit and use of the surviving spouse and minor children of the decedent.
  • Specific personal property items, as outlined in Texas Property Code 42.002(a). This applies to up to $100,000 for a family or $50,000 for an individual adult. These exemptions are intended for the benefit of the surviving spouse and minor children; unmarried adult children who continue to reside with the family, and incapacitated adult children.

Exempt property also includes the decedent’s pension benefits, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), and insurance benefits.

What is Non-Probate Property?

Non-probate property refers to assets that are transferred to a designated beneficiary upon the death of the individual, without the need for court proceedings, due to arrangements made during the individual’s lifetime. Examples include:

  • Property held within a trust.
  • Accounts designated as transfer-on-death (TOD) or payable-on-death (POD).
  • Assets held in joint tenancy with the right of survivorship.
  • Other accounts with beneficiary designations.

Such assets are excluded from being counted for the purpose of a Small Estate Affidavit.

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer to File a Small Estate Affidavit?

While hiring a lawyer is not a requirement, it can provide significant advantages and help ensure a smooth and successful process. Here’s why hiring a lawyer is a good idea when dealing with a Small Estate Affidavit:

  • Estate laws and procedures can be complicated and navigating them correctly is crucial to avoid potential complications or legal issues. An experienced attorney has in-depth knowledge of Texas probate laws and can guide you through the process, ensuring compliance with all requirements.
  • An attorney can help you determine if the Small Estate Affidavit is the appropriate option for your situation. They can evaluate whether your loved one’s estate qualifies for the SEA process based on factors such as asset value, absence of a will, and other criteria.
  • Properly completing the necessary documentation is critical for the success of the SEA process. An attorney can assist in accurately preparing the affidavit and other required documents, minimizing the risk of errors or omissions that could lead to delays or denials.
  • While the Small Estate Affidavit process generally doesn’t require a court appearance, legal representation can be valuable if any issues arise during the process. An attorney can represent your interests and address any challenges that may arise.
  • Some financial institutions or entities may be unfamiliar with the SEA process, and having legal representation can facilitate communication and ensure they recognize the validity of the affidavit.

Losing a loved one is emotionally challenging, and dealing with legal matters during this time can add stress. Hiring an attorney can alleviate the burden, allowing you to focus on grieving and remembering your loved one.

Questions About Small Estate Affidavits in Texas? 

When it comes to crafting a Texas Small Estate Affidavit, experience, attention to detail, and a thorough understanding of estate law are essential. By choosing Norris & Golubovic, PLLC to handle your Small Estate Affidavit, you’re benefiting from a legal partner that will handle the necessary steps with the utmost respect and precision. If you have questions or would like to schedule a complimentary 15-minute consultation, call 713-804-7472 or contact us online.

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